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Midshipmen’s Log 4/18/22: Levi Stoudt looks sharp, Modesto racks up 47 runs but few wins, Tacoma plays baseball on the moon

Also your weekly Noelvi Marte update

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at Seattle Mariners Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back for another installment of our Midshipman’s Log, keeping you up-to-date on everything that’s happening in the minors. It was an uneven week for the affiliates, with a losing record for all the teams despite some strong offensive performances and a couple pitching gems.

Modesto Nuts

Modesto Nuts (3-6) sunk by Stockton Ports (4-5)

After getting off to a strong start in the first two games, the Nuts got trounced by the Ports down the back of this series. Nuts starting pitching got lit up by the Ports batters: Michael Morales, who had a very strong debut, struggled in his second outing, giving up five runs over four innings, with a little loss of the advanced command he’d showed in his previous outing. He still struck out five, though. William Fleming, who’d also had a solid debut, was also toasted in his start to the tune of nine runs over just 3.1 innings. 19-year-old Adrian Quintana also struggled in his season (and stateside) debut, giving up six runs in just two innings. The Nuts bullpen actually had the most successful “start” of this series, with Jordan Jackson giving up just two runs as an opener over 3.2 innings, and Yeury Tatiz and Jorge Benitez combining for 4.1 shutout innings, on a day when of course the offense couldn’t get anything going, leading to a 2-1 loss—an outlier in a series where there was often 20 combined runs in a game.

Other than that final game, though, the offense was generally able to beat up on the Ports’ pitching staff; they scored 26 runs over the first two games alone, plus another 21 runs over the next three games, but weren’t able to keep up with the pace at which Modesto’s starting pitching was surrendering runs. This is pretty typical for the level at this time of year, especially with a lot of the high-variance young arms that are on Modesto’s large pitching staff. Yeury Tatíz is one to watch on Modesto’s pitching staff; he sits 94-96, occasionally touching 97, with a wicked breaking ball, and has 11 strikeouts in just five innings. Natanael Garabitos (8 Ks in 4 IP) and Juan Mercedes (7 Ks in 4 IP) are another pair of young hard-throwing international players whose names you should know (you’ll hear more about Mercedes in the Tacoma portion, which kind of gives you an idea of what the pitching depth is like in Tacoma right now).

Offensively, the Nuts were led by their sluggers C Freuddy Batista (3 HR on the season already) and 1B Robert Pérez (4 HR); Pérez, who is repeating the level, can’t be long for Modesto, as he’s slugging .677. OF Jonatan Clase continues to get on base with a combination of singles and walks with the occasional extra-base hit, and once he’s there, he’s almost assuredly going to swipe a bag; he has seven already in eight attempts, good for second in the Cal League. C Harry Ford’s bat is starting to warm up to the Cal League; he popped his first homer in this series and also showed some good speed, swiping two bases. -KP

Everett AquaSox Hopped On By Hillsboro

Despite the presence of several top-30 prospects on the roster, including ascendant #1 prospect Noelvi Marte, Everett remains near the cellar of the standings in the Northwest League thanks to a couple of tough early draws against Eugene (SFG) and Hillsboro (ARI).

I Do Not Wish To Speak About The Remainder Of The Everett AquaSox’ (3-5) series with the Hillsboro Hops (5-4)

Okay. I am willing to talk about one of the games.

Last Thursday, the AquaSox put together a fantastic game! Everett put together a complete win, as they dismantled the Hops 5-0. Let’s hit some highlights:

Isaiah Campbell? More like Isaiah Can-Ball: I know that was contrived, stay with me here. Campbell remains, even as far as prospects go, a grand mystery in the M’s farm system. After a stellar college career at Arkansas, he was drafted in the Competitive Balance Round B (between the second and third round) in the 2019 draft. There’s a lot to love with this guy - a big, solid frame with an athletic delivery, a fastball with some fuzz, promising breaking pitches and a new splitter. Unfortunately, we have seen just 29.1 innings of baseball from him since he was drafted, including his two starts from this year. Not all of it is his fault - he was shut down in 2019 after a long run for Arkansas that put well over 100 innings on his arm, 2020 was 2020, and so forth. But last year, after five really solid appearances, he was sent off for elbow surgery. He was dropped from MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 list this year, despite the promise he’s shown so far.

This year, Campbell has come out guns blazing, seeming determined to remind everyone why he was drafted where he was. He turned in a really solid performance, throwing five innings of one-hit ball, and notching another six strikeouts.

Here’s a pair of those strikeouts - the first one clips a bit on the fastball, but the curveball has some real depth here.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what Campbell can offer to this already-loaded farm. If he can stay healthy, look for him to move quickly.

Multi-Multi-Hit Nights: The Frogs had some very active bats in this first game. Alberto Rodríguez, Noelvi Marte, Victor Labrada and Dariel Gomez each had multiple hits, with Berto claiming three of his own. Berto, Labrada and catcher Andy Thomas each added a double to their totals.

Dariel Gomez was the early hero here. He knocked in the first run of the game in the fourth on a single that scored Labrada. Then, in the sixth, he swatted this gorgeous solo shot, displaying some opposite-field power to put the Frogs up by 2:

Speaking of Labrada, shoutout to him for this high degree-of-difficulty catch, unusual route and all:

Noelvi Marte: That’s it - that’s the sub-head. Just Noelvi Marte.

Noelvi continues to shine as the #1 prospect heir apparent this season, showing all the potential in the world to be a true five-tool player on the left side of the infield. He’s been must-watch baseball this spring. Seriously, if you live in Seattle, get yourself out to an AquaSox game.

In particular, he displays his easy swing, natural power, and speed on this inside-the-parker that scored Berto from first in the top of the ninth inning.

What’s not to love there? Though I still think the 2023 ETA on MLB Pipeline is a bit optimistic, I can’t wait to see what Noelvi offers to the big-league club one day.

I was very upfront, reader. I do not wish to speak about the Friday game, the Saturday game, and certainly not the Sunday game. But, here we are. Kate says it must be done, and i volunteered for the Everett games willingly, so...

It’s not as though there weren’t some bright spots. On Friday, Macko, yet another exciting pitching prospect, put in his own great outing. He recorded eight strikeouts in his 5.0 IP, giving up just one run against a potent Hops lineup.

Macko has a nasty new sweeper, today’s most in-vogue pitch, and he put it on display on Friday, earning some ugly swings.

His fastball also showed some late jump. His mix of velocity and movement from the left side could see him make a big jump this year, too.

Unfortunately, a lack of production at the plate doomed the Sox in this 2-1 loss. Batters one through five each recorded a hit, but unfortunately they weren’t able to string them together, and the bottom of the order was held hitless.

Saturday was another tough loss. The Hops won this one 3-2, and the offense was even more anemic despite the extra run, finishing with just two hits. Cesar Izturis Jr, despite being held hitless, had one of the more standout performances of the night. He drove in both runs on a fielders’ choice and a sacrifice fly, and even managed to nab a base, his first of the year.

Certainly a Texan Bryce Miller also had a good night on the mound, lasting 5.2 innings, collecting six strikeouts and giving up just two runs. His fastball has shown flashes of being a plus pitch, as has his nasty slider.

He did some work for himself, too, as he follows up a slider that hung just a bit here with a slick, behind-the-back grab. I’ve watched this highlight several times, and it gets better every time.

A soft sacrifice fly in the bottom of the tenth inning scored the winning run. Death to the Manfred Man, the Ghost Runner, whatever name you have for that dreaded rule.

Sunday’s game? I think it was cancelled, or something. Maybe...a hurricane? Or crop circles appeared in the outfield, and it seemed spooky? Or maybe the moon over Hillsboro disappeared from the sky, leaving in its place just a humming circle of crinkling static and impossible deep void, and that seemed, like, game-cancellation worthy on its own merits?

Either way, definitely cancelled. Because if there had been a game it certainly would not have looked like this:

oofda
milb.com

Aaaaanyways, the Frogs have today off, and then are starting a six-game series against the Tri-City Dust Devils at home on Tuesday night. -NV

Arkansas Travelers (5-4) stay afloat against the Springfield Cardinals (4-5)

It’s early yet, but the Travs are hanging onto second place in their division—although they’re nowhere near the class of the league, the 8-1 Frisco RoughRiders (TEX), and a surprisingly good Midland (OAK) team. Keep watching this league for more divisional previews, as the Astros’ affiliate, the Corpus Christi Hooks, also plays in this league.

Game Four: Stoudt shines in 3-2 win

I am so jealous of everyone who is able to see the Arkansas Travelers pitching staff in person this season. If you happened to miss George Kirby’s eight strikeout night, fear not, because you could’ve just watched Levi Stoudt sit down eight of his own the next night.

Stoudt might be in the conversation for the best fastball in the organization, a conversation that will only get louder if he can dominate as he did on Thursday night. The eight Ks is impressive enough, but the zero walks are a more encouraging sign. The rise on the fastball, already sitting around 98, is tough enough to hit, but if he can control it as well as he did on Thursday night, he might be in Seattle sooner than initially expected. Stoudt blew a 96 MPH fastball by the Jordan Walker, the top prospect in the organization and #30 prospect in all of baseball.

The Travs took advantage offensively of what the Cardinals gave them. They plated one in the second thanks to a walk, single, walk, and sacrifice fly by Patrick Frick. The Cardinals briefly tied the game on Stoudt’s lone mistake of the game, a home run by Moises Gomez to lead off the fifth inning.

Arkansas quickly got it back, determined to reward Stoudt with a win for his excellent outing. Zach DeLoach, already making me look incredibly dumb by doubting him in our preseason picks, opened up the sixth inning with a single. He followed that up with his first stolen base of the season. A Joe Rizzo walk followed by a Tanner Kirwer single allowed DeLoach to score to ensure Stoudt would win. Just to be extra safe, the Travelers scored one more in the 6th inning on a Matt Scheffler single.

In the eighth, a Delvin Perez sac fly made it a run one game and turned the pressure on Travis Kuhn in the final frame. If getting his first AA save wasn’t enough pressure when he stepped on the mound, I imagine he felt it when Todd Lott struck a ball right up the middle to seemingly put the tying run on third base with one out. However, Cade Marlowe had different plans, as the centerfielder rifled in a throw to nail the runner at third base.

Kuhn responded by striking out Nick Dunn to close out the game. It’s safe to say he was just a little bit excited.

Game Five: Travelers offense heats up, bullpen holds on for 6-5 win

Cade Marlowe, deciding that saving one game wasn't enough, opened Friday night with a lead-off home run.

The Cardinals offense got to Stephen Kolek early, as the former Dodger farmhand, walked three, hit a batter, and allowed three runs in the second inning. The 23-year-old settled in nicely after that, retiring 11 of the final 12 he faced.

Arkansas tied it up in the third on a Trent Tinglestad line drive up the middle. The well dried up for the middle innings as both starting pitchers found their rhythm. The Travs did jump on Kyle Leahy the third time through the order. Zach DeLoach ripped a single to open the inning. A Joe Rizzo chased Leahy from the game and the Travs wasted little time jumping on the Cards bullpen, with a Connor Hoover double to break the deadlock. A wild pitch gave Arkansas the 5-3 edge.

DeLoach extended that lead the following inning with another single. The #12 Ms prospect (I’m convinced MLB Pipeline put him here solely because of Texas A&M) is now batting .407/.484/.593. Yes, small sample size and all that, but after playing 49 games in Arkansas last season, it’ll be interesting to see how much time the 23-year-old spends in Arkansas if he continues to rake even a little bit as he has been so far.

It turns out that insurance run was mighty valuable as Moises Gomez, hit a two-run shot to pull the Cardinals within one. I know the series is over now, but I am just going to beg the Travelers to walk Gomez every time he comes up to the plate when they meet again. He had five home runs in the five games he played against Arkansas. He is also an example of a fun time with an extremely small sample size with his 1.768 OPS to open up the season.

It looked like it was going to be a relatively calm final frame when Michael Stryffeler set down the first two batters, but no, I guess because they are related to the Seattle Mariners, they can’t play a “normal” game. Stryffeler walked the next two batters to put the go-ahead run on base for the Cards’s #1 prospect Jordan Walker. Stryffeler won the battle and struck out Walker swinging to end the game and give the Travelers the win.

Game Six: Travelers want to start the weekend early, nearly accidentally get no-hit.

Look, I totally get it. It’s been a long week. It’s your Friday. You’re just trying to take things lowkey, do as little work as possible, and dip out of work early to enjoy your two days off. But bro, you can’t almost get no-hit in the process.

This is a great strategy if you get a hit in the first inning or two. You can just go up there swinging and try to end things quickly to get started traveling to Corpus Christie and enjoy your time off. No one would blame you at all; you’ve already had a solid week, going 4-1 in the series up to this finale. But if it weren’t for a Tanner Kirwer single to start the 7th inning, the vibes would’ve been very bad as you get into your two days off. I don’t know the equivalent at my job, but I feel like getting no-hit is never a great thing for team morale heading into a weekend.

The Kirwer knock was about the only thing that went right for the Travs on Saturday. Starting pitcher Taylor Dollard left the game after just six batters with what seemed to be a blister. At least Dollard looked sharp in his brief appearance, striking out Jordan Walker (you seem great, I am so sorry for showing you striking out multiple times) on this filthy breaking ball.

The bullpen cobbled together the rest of the afternoon, allowing four runs. Honestly, not awful for an unplanned bullpen day. Thankfully they can rest with their extra off day. Despite the plethora of pitching changes, the Travs still got out of there in just over 2:30. An admirable performance by the offense in how to attack the last day of the week. -KG

Contents of Tacoma Rainiers (4-8) sandwich turn out to be highly irradiated Albuquerque Isotopes (5-7)

My sincere apologies, but I will not be game-by-gaming this doozy of a series, which Tacoma bookended with victories but ceded 4-2 on the whole to their New Mexican counterparts. Let’s break down a few notables.

This Is How We Pitch On The Moon

Albuquerque is infamous as a hitter’s paradise, over 5,100 feet above sea level. It makes for an ideal training grounds for future Colorado Rockies players, hence the affiliation, but the exercise is misery for pitchers of all creeds. Darren McCaughan was the only Rainiers starter to work into the fifth inning, and he did so by yielding just one walk and eight strikeouts but eight earned runs on three big flies. When people say it’s hard to evaluate on stat lines in the Pacific Coast League, this series is why.

Nick Margevicius, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Asher Wojciechowski, Ian McKinney, and call-up spot starter Juan Mercedes fared even worse, and helped paint at least some picture as to why the big league club saw fit to acquire RHP Riley O’Brien to help add some depth.

It won’t be hard to say the Rainiers pitching staff will be glad to be back home in T-Town this coming week. Still, a few relievers put up solid outings. Longtime M’s southpaw Roenis Elías had a clean 3.0 IP across the weekend in a pair of outings. They were his first affiliated innings since 2018, a huge milestone on the lengthy trail back for Elías, who signed a multi-year minor league deal ahead of 2021 to rehab from Tommy John surgery with the Mariners in hopes of eventually finding a big league role in the bullpen once more.

Given Seattle’s unsettled lefty relief depth, there could easily be just such an opportunity if Roenis continues performing like this as he works his way back. Encouragingly, Elías sat 92-94 in his outings, a healthy clip that he can likely get swings and misses at with his off-speed repertoire.

Another impressive bullpen arm was Penn Murfee, who extended his year-long scoreless innings streak to 8.0 IP in a pair of appearances totaling three frames. He added a trio of strikeouts to his ledger in that time, as well as his first and only hit allowed of 2022, but did not yield a base on balls. At elevation, pitchers can struggle to get their pitches to break as usual, with the thinner air offering less resistance, yielding a flatter, more hittable breaking ball. Murfee appeared to have no such troubles.

Awwwwwww-Fence

The grass-is-greener experience for the Rainiers is that their trip to the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate left their collective OPS swollen and happier. C Joe Odom was one major beneficiary, collecting at least one hit in all four games he started, including his first, second, third, and fourth home runs of the year.

Talk about the thinness of the air all you like, but this is a big fly in old Tiger Stadium.

I wouldn’t anticipate a power breakout from the 30 year old backstop, but he’s spent parts of four seasons in Triple-A already in his career and has already nearly doubled his career dinger total at the level, so it’s at least worth eyeing if he’s made some measurable improvements at the plate in future weeks.

Elsewhere, most Rainiers got in on the action at least at some point. Steven Souza Jr. went yard on Sunday, as did slumping fellow outfielder Marcus Wilson. 1B-later-turned-emergency pitcher Mike Ford took a ball deep, and Kevin Padlo liked how it looked so much he did it twice that same game. The now-promoted Donovan Walton didn’t leave the yard, but he lashed the ball around it aplenty, including a 3-for-4 night on Thursday with a triple and a walk. Would I recommend tuning in for future series’ in Albuquerque? On an every half inning basis exclusively.

Hey, What Are You Doing Here?

It was a neat week for emergency call-ups, and unfortunately necessary. An injury to 3B/C Josh Morgan also pinched Tacoma’s roster, particularly following the promotion of Walton. C/3B/1B/OF David Sheaffer got called up for depth, though he did not appear in a game. A late addition for Sunday only was OF Arturo Guerrero, a six-figure international signee from the 2017 class, who entered the M’s system alongside Julio Rodríguez and will likely see time in Modesto this year. He spent all of 2021 at the Arizona Complex League, getting on base at a healthy clip thanks to his knack for getting hit by pitch and generally putting up an offensive profile with some intrigue due to his athletic frame. Getting the start in center field, the first pitch he saw he clobbered over the left-center field fence for a home run, making his first plate appearance outside of the ACL a Triple-A tater. He’d also add an RBI single later in the afternoon for an exhilarating day all around. He’s a cerebral, well-regarded player for whom the next step needs to be affiliated success, and this is a lovely, if surprising appetizer.

On the pitching side, things were a bit less storybook. Mercedes struggled as previously mentioned in his spot start; the 22-year-old will likely return to Low-A Modesto where he is more well-suited, and can continue building a relief repertoire. It had been his first start at any level since Short Season ball in 2019. RHP Tyler Driver also got a chance to show his stuff in Triple-A, though he yielded two runs in two innings. The 21 year old will also hope to build on the experience back down with the Nuts this week. Tacoma’s most successful sub on the pitching side was a personal favorite of mine, LHP Brayan Perez, who has yet to appear in a game in 2022 somewhat surprisingly.

Perez pitched quite impressively in 2021 for the Nuts, predominantly in a bullpen role. His slight size might still be a limiter for working out of the rotation, but the club may be focused on building strength for the lefty, who sat 88-91 in his outing but flashed his typical plus changeup and slider. Hopefully improved depth will keep Tacoma from having to make too many more calls to the youth once May cuts Seattle’s roster down a couple arms, but until then, we may continue getting peeks of the distant future. -JT