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Midshipmen’s Log 4/21/22: George Kirby strong again, Zach DeLoach’s hot streak, Sam Haggerty puts the Rainiers on his (tiny) shoulders

And introducing a new feature: our Ones to Watch for each affiliate

We’re back again with another edition of the Midshipmen’s Log. If you’ve missed any MSLs and they happen to be buried on the front page, remember you can always click the group name at the top of the article or search the group “Mariners Minors” to find all the minors happenings.

ICYMI, Kate and Kyle rounded up all the Top-30 prospects for the various affiliates the Mariners will play this season. I (Kate) already found it significantly improved my experience watching yesterday’s Hooks-Travelers game to know whether the guy Kirby was striking out at the time was a ranked prospect or just another hapless victim. Speaking of Hooks, let us bring you back to this week’s contests:

Modesto Nuts (4-7) face off against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (6-5)

This week Modesto is playing the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes at home, which is good because there’s no MiLB TV for Rancho. The Quakes are a Dodgers affiliate and boast the top prospect in the organization, C Diego Cartaya, as well as an old John favorite, P Maddux Bruns.

Modesto started this series off with a bang, winning a decisive 8-3 victory in Game 1 behind a strong start from Joseph Hernandez. The 21-year-old righty is in his first season of full-season ball and collected eight strikeouts over just five innings of work; Nuts pitching kept top prospect Cartaya to an 0-for-5 night with two strikeouts. Meanwhile, Harry Ford continued to heat up, slashing his second double of the season, and Robert Pérez continued to make the argument he doesn’t belong in Modesto, stroking his fifth home run of the season. Jonatan Clase lost his hitting streak but still reached base on a walk and error, and collected two more stolen bases to give him nine on the young season; he also collected an outfield assist.

The Nuts squandered a strong start from their ace in Game 2; Michael Morales lasted until nearly the sixth inning but surrendered four runs in the fifth and was lifted; meanwhile, the Nuts offense couldn’t get anything going against Rancho starter Kendall Williams, the return from the Ross Stripling trade, nor 19-year-old 2021 draftee Ronan Kopp, who struck out five Nuts in just two innings of work. Yikes!

Player to watch: In this section we’ll give you a player who might not be getting as much love as they should, or someone who flies under the top prospect radar. On Monday I talked a little about Modesto’s young pitching corps and some names to watch there (Natanael Garabitos, Juan Mercedes, Yeury Tatiz), but today let’s shine a light on catcher Freuddy Batista. Working in a time share with fellow catching prospect (and roommate) Harry Ford, Bautista trails just powerhouse Robert Pérez in slugging percentage with three home runs of his own, while holding down the most difficult defensive position on the diamond and working with a diverse and largely inexperienced pitching staff. Full disclosure: I have been a huge Freuddy Fan since he sent us this video of him working out during the shutdown at his home in the DR:

Everett AquaSox (3-7) are bedeviled by Tri-City Dust Devils (6-4)

Everett has a week at home facing off against the Tri-City Dust Devils. Funko Field does not have MiLB TV, so we will unfortunately be limited to fan video for the week. The Dust Devils are affiliated with the Los Angeles Angels, and boast two of their top 10 prospects, but are thin beyond that.

Everett drop opener 6-9 to the Dust Devils (not nice), almost win in game two, don’t, lose 3-5

Mariners fans are surely familiar with the Sog. I’ll admit, though, I’ve always associated it more with an individual player than with an entire team, all at once, and typically in a more metaphorical sense than in a physical wetness way.

But what if I told you that there could be, say, a physical Sog, so powerful it derailed an entire team full of young, hopeful athletes, its hour come round at last? It’s enough to send a shiver down your spine, to put a quaver in your hands.

All of this is to say, the Everett AquaSox were undefeated (yes, 2-0) up until they got rained out by a veritable deluge on April 10. They appear to still be drying off from that cursed rain. They’ve gone 1-7, been outscored 23-44, and the bright spots have been getting fewer and further between.

In both of these games, they were unable to hold on to an early lead.

On Tuesday night, they were outplayed, good and simple. While the Sox scored six runs, they only recorded four RBIs as as team - the Dust Devils’ three errors will certainly do that. It was an exciting game to start, though - the first four runs scored were by home runs, including a solo shot by outfielder Victor Labrada and a two-run four-bagger from infielder James Parker. Spencer Packard added a single to score Noelvi Marte, who had reached on a fielding error.

Unfortunately, from there, it mostly went downhill. A five-run top of the fifth inning sunk the starter du jour, Tim Elliott, the M’s 2019 4th round draft pick. Elliott ended with seven runs on eight hits and a pair of walks to go with his three strikeouts. The teams traded pairs of runs, both of Everett’s coming by way of Tri-City errors, and the damage was done.

Wednesday was more of a heartbreaker. Everett took an early lead on a two-run double by catcher Charlie Welch. Welch advanced to third on a throwing error by the Dust Devils, and was then scored on this Victor Labrada blooper.

Unfortunately, that was it for the AquaSox, as they gave up the lead slowly, and then all at once.

Isaiah Campbell continues to show out strong this season, tossing 5 innings of one-run ball, racking up five strikeouts and giving up just four hits. We unfortunately don’t have video of his outings, but those in attendance said he looked dominant.

Luis Curvelo gave up another run in relief over his 2.1 innings, which takes us up to the ninth inning.

A triple and a sacrifice fly tied the game at three, and from there, we watched it slip away. Two walks, a passed ball, and a single later, the score was 5-3, and this Potentially Sogged offense didn’t have it in them to take it back.

Here’s hoping the next week goes better.

Player to Watch: Spencer Packard, OF

Packard has easily been the most productive player on the offense thus far. He’s working on a .297/.395/.568 slash line, good for a .963 OPS. The 2021 draft pick also displayed a keen eye at the plate (14% walk rate), some pop (four doubles and a pair of home runs) and some speed, going 3-for-3 on stolen base attempts. Obviously, early-season small sample size applies, but keep an eye on Packard. If he can continue to produce, a trip to Arkansas might not be out of the picture this year.

Arkansas Travelers (6-5) try to evade Corpus Christi Hooks (4-7)

Arkansas is playing the Corpus Christi Hooks this week at their home, Whataburger Field, which boasts a pretty nice TV feed. The Hooks have a pretty heavy concentration of the Astros’ Top 30 prospects (9), but only one ranked in the Top 10, infielder Joe Perez.

Game one: DeLoach comes up clutch to give Travs 7-6 win.

I can only assume that Zach DeLoach is a frequent reader of all things minor league baseball and was not pleased by the lack of Zach DeLoach content over the offseason. He must’ve seen publications drop him down the Mariners’ organizational rankings in favor of newer and younger faces like Edwin Arroyo and Gabriel Gonzales. He must’ve wondered what he would have to do to get back in their good graces and climb back up toward the top of the Ms system.

To start the season, DeLoach has seemingly answered that question, batting .343/.425/.514, and Tuesday was no exception. The offense as a whole was surprisingly hot considering their slow start this season, putting up six runs through six innings. Unfortunately, Peyton Alford struggled out of the bullpen to surrender the 6-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh. DeLoach came up with one on and two outs in the eighth inning.

Dear every minor league baseball manager, please look away for a minute. Ok cool. I have no idea why you don’t walk DeLoach here. Yes, you’re putting the go-ahead run in scoring position, but I would much rather live with that with two outs and face someone batting under .200 as opposed to someone as scorching hot as DeLoach is right now. DeLoach unsurprisingly delivered with a double to bring in the go-ahead run. He was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple, which honestly might be the worst thing that has happened to DeLoach so far this season.

The Hooks loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Michael Stryffeler miraculously escaped from the jam with a 5-4-3 double play to end it.

Game two: George Kirby is spectacular, the offense not quite as much, in 2-0 loss

Sometimes it is important to just talk about another outstanding outing by the best pitching prospect in the organization, and breeze past what the offense did, because mental health.

Alright, let’s just get the offense out of the way real quick so we can move talk about the fun parts. Jake Scheiner got on base three times, with one hit and two walks. The rest of the offense combined for one walk. Cool, now we can move on to George Kirby.

Remember when George Kirby came onto the scene, struck out everyone, and walked no one? Yeah, he’s still doing that. He struck out seven tonight while walking two (gasp!), and it cut his K/BB nearly in half on the season from his absurd 13 through to starts to a still-leading-the-organization 6.67. The command was never a concern for Kirby; he is elite at keeping the ball in the zone because he knows that it won’t hurt too much even if the opponent makes contact. All five of his hits allowed tonight were singles.

There’s a solid argument that Wednesday night was the worst start of the season for Kirby. He went five innings, giving up five hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts. Pretty cool that that’s considered a “down” start. Even on those rare times when batters are running into hits, he has the ability to strand them with a strand rate north of 70%, as he did here on a disgusting breaking ball.

The Hooks strung together a walk, a single, and a double to score two in the seventh to put the game out of reach for the listless Travs offense. But that’s not as fun to talk about, so instead let's watch George Kirby make Double-A hitters wish he was in Seattle already so they won’t have to face him again.

Player to Watch: Zach DeLoach OF

I know we devoted the primary chunk of a section to him, but we need to talk about Zach DeLoach. DeLoach’s excellent start becomes even more impressive when you realize the rest of the offense is ice cold. DeLoach’s OPS is .233 points higher than the next closest Traveler. No matter what way you slice it, DeLoach has been outstanding in his second stint in Arkansas, opening with an eight-game hitting streak that came to an end last night. Part of me wonders how long he would have to keep raking like this to earn a promotion to Tacoma, but on the other hand, I am not sure the offense will be able to survive without him if they don’t turn it around soon. The honorable mention here is Michael Stryffeler, who has only allowed two hits and no runs through four appearances this season. -KG

Tacoma splits a pair against the Sugar Land Space Cowboys

I need to start out here by venting for a second about how much I hate the Space Cowboys’ logo:

The name, fine. Sugar Land Skeeters was awful; Space Cowboys puts together the two things anyone knows about Texas and is a nod back to the parent organization (the Astros), so I’m not mad about it. No, what is dreadful here is the faceless space cowboy. Words cannot express how much I hate this dystopian space opera nightmare figure, this moonman space hag that is definitely sitting on my chest when I turn out the light. It actively sets chills down my spine when I open the Rainiers schedule and see this small malevolent enigma, the oversized starburst reflecting the vast uncaring landscape of spacetime itself, a wink and a nod to the fact that you can never really name your fears because no one living can truly grasp the concept of death, but for some reason they have a neckerchief. How I hate it.

Anyway, the Rainiers are running at diminished capacity as a COVID outbreak on the big-league club led the Mariners to scoop not only their best position player in Donovan Walton and their best reliever in Penn Murfee but also basically the entire coaching staff; Tacoma lost the first game in resounding fashion, 5-11, despite the efforts of leadoff man Sam Haggerty collecting three hits including his first homer of the season along with a double and a homer from Marcus Wilson, but starter Asher Wojciechowski apparently forgot he was playing in the relative safety of Tacoma’s PCL park and surrendered seven runs over 1.2 innings. To their credit, the Rainiers bounced back in the second game of the series thanks to a strong start from Daniel Ponce de Leon, who only gave up one run over five innings of work. Haggerty had another three-hit day and drove in the Rainiers’ first run on a sac fly (he also stole two bases, in true Swaggy Ham fashion). Connor’s favorite reliever Danny Young struck out three in 1.1 innings to collect his first save, so let’s call him our one to watch, since you should already be watching Sam Haggerty:

The Rainiers are at home this weekend, as are the AquaSox, so why not get out and see some minor-league baseball? It’s Thirsty Thursday tonight for the Rainiers ($3 beers) and this weekend is Throwback Weekend celebrating the opening of Cheney Stadium in 1960: the Rainiers will wear throwback unis and there will be some cool giveaways, and you know Casey Catherwood and the Rainiers Fun Squad will turn things up to 11 (there’s nothing our man Casey loves like a good theme weekend).