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Midshipmen’s Log 4/25/22: William Fleming deals, Sox starters star, Travs slug, Rainiers throw it back

Thursday through Sunday on the farm!

Victor Labrada soars for a catch for the AquaSox

It’s time for another edition of the Midshipmen’s Log! We’re now deep enough into the minor league season that things should have stabilized some, but unfortunately the big league COVID breakout has left the west coast-based affiliates scrambling as holes get patched up across the system. It is good to pay attention to who gets those random callups to Triple-A from Single-A, though; the organization often uses that as a way to reward a prospect who has shown exceptional maturity or the ability to make the best out of a tough situation, and it signals a certain degree of organizational trust in the player.

Modesto (6-9, not nice) earthquake proofs half their stadium, splits series with Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (8-7)

Even though the result of this was a split, it’s a little disappointing Modesto didn’t come away with a series win due to blowing a lead in the ninth in Game 4 of this series. After splitting the first two games of the series, Game 3 was a laugher, with Modesto crushing the Quakes 11-1 on the strength of a three-hit day from Jonatan Clase (including two doubles and two stolen bases), along with three-hit efforts from Randy Bednar and Ben Ramirez (Ramirez also homered).

William Fleming was excellent in that outing, striking out eight over six innings and allowing just one walk and one hit.

The Nuts also looked to have Game 4 on lock with another strong offensive performance up and down the lineup, but the bullpen continually gave up runs and the killing blow came in a five-run ninth inning leading to an 8-11 loss. Modesto’s bullpen is talented but young and high-variance, and that was on display in Game 4 and Game 5, where once again the offense combined to score nine runs, but Yeury Tatiz couldn’t escape the first inning and the pitching staff as a whole surrendered 11 runs. The Nuts were able to salvage a series split on Sunday with a 4-2 win thanks to a solid performance from some of the more college-seasoned arms on the pitching staff—2021 draftee Riley Davis turned in a solid three innings, giving up just one run, and fellow class of 2021er Andrew Moore secured the save by striking out the side. Joseph Hernandez got the start and struck out five in four innings while only surrendering one run. Meanwhile, the offense took advantage of some shoddy play by the Quakes to score two runs on mistake plays, and Robert Perez chipped in yet another RBI base hit, this time a double. The Nuts now face a tough test with another series against the San Jose Giants, whose pitching staff absolutely ate their lunch last series.

Everett Aquasox (6-8) working for the weekend, get the Sunday Scaries, split remaining games against Tri-City Dust Devils (7-7)

The Aquasox continue their home series against the Dust Devils. They seemed to have gotten their feet under them a little bit, claiming the fourth and fifth games of the series before dropping the finale as they work to get themselves out of a rough patch. The pitching staff stole the show this series, as three of the starters had phenomenal outings in this stretch of games.

Thursday night was the Adam Macko show, as he continues to absolutely shove in his first stint in High-A. In his latest dazzling start, Macko threw six innings, giving up five runs and two hits, but striking out ten with no walks. The Pride of Bratislava is sporting a mind-boggling 46% strikeout rate versus a 4.7% walk rate this season in his first three starts. Likely to regress? Probably. A ton of fun to watch? Hell yeah.

Speaking of, we are unfortunately without any video, as my scouring of the Twitter-verse came up empty.

Unfortunately, Macko’s outing was for naught, as the Dust Devils used a big three-run 10th inning to claim a 6-3 victory. Andy Thomas and Victor Labrada had a pair of solo shots while Cole Barr took a bases-loaded HBP for the third run of the game. The Frogs were unable to capitalize on a TON of traffic - they had 19 baserunners (5 hits, 13 walks(!!) and the HBP), but went 0-for-12 with RISP, and left 16 men on base as a team.

Friday night was the Bryce Miller show, as he continues to absolutely hurl in his first stint in High-A. In another fantastic start, Miller took a no-hitter into the sixth, ending with just one hit in six scoreless innings, notching five strikeouts. The Pride of Mount Pleasant is off to a sterling start, following up another phenomenal start last time around, and has given up just two runs in his 11.2 innings so far.

The offense was able to get the job done for Miller. A Charlie Welch solo shot in the top of the third got the scoring started. Berto followed right behind him, scoring on a wild pitch after slicing a triple. I would pay dearly for the video of this as a certified Berto stan.

After giving up three runs in the seventh inning, Everett needed some big-time clutch at-bats, and after a couple weeks of generally floundering, finally found them. Consecutive full-count walks by Parker, Labrada and Welch gave Dariel Gomez a shot to be the hero.

He decided to take it.

Saturday night was the Jimmy Joyce show, as he looks to impress in his second stint in High-A. Hoping to rebound from a disastrous last start where he failed to escape the second inning, Joyce threw six strong innings, giving up just a single run and three hits, while notching six strikeouts. The Pride of Rockville Centre is off to an uneven start, as he’s had two starts you can notch in the “Good” category versus one you can attempt to completely forget about.

After Joyce’s stellar outing, it also became the bullpen show, as Bryan Pall, Evan Johnson and Kyle Hill each contributed three innings, combining for five strikeouts and giving up just two hits.

Another trio of solo home runs from Welch, Gomez and Berto added to the deluge of solo shots (six between Thursday, Friday and Saturday’s games). It is especially good to see Rodríguez hit a dinger - just his third XBH of the season, he’ll need to get more bases if he wants to keep paces with his “brother” Marte, who, despite a slow start to the season, is likely to move fast.

A sacrifice fly from Barr and an RBI double from Parker helped secure Everett’s second win in a row, 5-1.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a weekend with a little dose of the Sunday Scaries. Everett ought to have taken a page out of the Purple Boys playbook. Unfortunately, they did not, and they got zonked, to the tune of an 18-2 bludgeoning. Six pitchers took the bump for Everett in Sunday’s game. Three (Brendan McGuigan, Luis Curvelo and the towering (6’7, 235) and alliterative Mike Mokma) of them combined for three scoreless, one-hit innings. Unfortunately, starter Tim Elliott, who recorded the first eight outs in the game, gave up 10 runs on 12 hits, including a pair of home runs. His immediate replacement, Fred Villarreal, gave up four runs in his 2.1 innings, and the last pitcher of the night, Robert Winslow, gave up four runs in his one inning.

As for the offense, hits were aplenty but runs were scarce. Barr, Rodríguez and Packard each recorded multiple hits, and overall Everett knocked ten hits, but the only RBI was a Barr home run (Marte also scored on a passed ball).

The Sox have an off-day today, and then are back to the office, playing the Spokane Indians (7-8) at home this week.

Travelers (8-7) bats finally come alive; their arms take the weekend off in a series split against Hooks (6-9)

The Travelers hinted at what was coming the rest of the week when they scored seven runs on Tuesday’s win, but a wasted George Kirby gem on Wednesday’s 2-0 loss made the offensive explosion seem like a blip. However, the bats heated up the rest of the weekend; unfortunately, the pitching staff struggled late in games and couldn’t take advantage of the uncommon run support.

It looked like an absolute drubbing early on for the Travelers on Wednesday night. The offense got things rolling with three runs in the fifth, two of which came on Zach DeLoach’s first triple of the season.

The Travs tacked on five more in the fifth, loading the bases for Cade Marlowe to drive in two with a single to center. Later in the inning, Joe Rizzo followed that up with a shot to the gap to extend the lead to 8-0.

Levi Stoudt kept the Hooks at bay during his five innings of work. The Ms #7 prospect gave up just four hits and one run while striking out seven in his third straight dominant start to open the season. The 23-year-old is running a 0.81 WHIP and .222 BABIP through 16 innings. A 6/1 K/BB isn’t too bad either.

Things got a little dicey for the Travelers after Stoudt left the game. Collin Kober and Jake Haberer struggled, allowing the Hooks to crawl back into it. Ben Onyshko relieved Haberer in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and promptly plunked the first batter he faced to bring the tying run to the plate with no outs. He bounced back immediately by striking out the next two and getting a ground out to extinguish the threat. Crisis averted, right?

Wrong. Deciding that he liked the thrill of escaping a bases-loaded jam so much, Onyshko loaded the bases again in the ninth inning. Once again, he escaped the jam on a double play to end it. He just wanted to bring a little excitement to what seemed like a blowout for much of the last few innings.

Friday night was much more of your typical Travelers game that we have grown accustomed to over the first few weeks of the season. The pitching is excellent, the offense struggles, and huh? The opponent loads the bases in the ninth but fails to score; wait a second, that can’t be right? I just saw that one.

If we take out the lead-off home run he gave up Willie Abreu, Stephen Kolek was pretty dang impressive. I mean, even if we don’t forget about that bomb, five innings, four hits, one run, and eight strikeouts isn’t too shabby. It is truly something just how good the Travs pitching staff is. With most series going six games, there’s a pretty solid chance that an opposing team will have to face one of Kirby, Stoudt, or Kolek twice. That’s before we even get to Taylor Dollard. Good luck.

The Travelers offense scored all three runs in the third inning with a single, force out, and a sac fly—a winning baseball strategy, a losing strategy for giving me something exciting to write about.

I know that reliever Braden Shipley, a 2013 draft pick, was selected before most of his opponents took their first high school class, but his performance to start the year is something else regardless. The 30-year-old has been nothing short of phenomenal this year, anchoring the Travs bullpen. He has appeared in five games, going 7.2 innings. He and I have allowed the exact same number of hits. Can you guess how many hits that is? (zero, the answer is zero. It would be pretty cool if I were secretly getting lit up in the Texas league on the side, though)

Travis Kuhn gave up one in the eight to put the pressure on Michael Stryffeler to clinch at least a series split while hanging on to just a one-run lead. Stryffeler, deciding that that wasn’t nearly enough pressure, chose to walk two batters and hit the other to load the bases for the Hooks in the final frame. Finally, at his desired pressure level, Stryffeler was able to calmly strike out the side to end the game.

At first glance, Saturday and Sunday share an eerily similar script; Travs score six runs in each game, pitching costs them the W. Which, I mean, not totally inaccurate. But, the actual competitiveness of each game varied significantly.

Saturday night saw Arkansas jump out to a quick 4-0 lead in the first inning on six straight hits. They pushed the lead to 6-1 going into the bottom of the fifth, but the bullpen just did not have the gas left to finish the game out, in part because Taylor Dollard only went three (excellent) innings in his first start back after leaving his last outing after just 1.1 innings with a blister. Peyton Alford gave up two in his two innings of work. Jackson Sigman did not have it working at all on Saturday, giving up three and being yanked before he could record an out. Devin Sweet did his best EMT impersonation and stopped the bleeding when he got to the scene, throwing two scoreless innings to give the ball to David Ellingson in the eighth with the lead. The Hooks scored once on Ellingson in the eighth and again when he returned to the mound in the ninth for the walk-off win.

Sunday was not nearly as heartbreaking, despite the final score showing a 6-8 Travs loss. Onyshko and Haberer struggled out of the pen as the Hooks jumped out to a 6-0 lead after six innings. The Travs tacked on two in the seventh and four in the ninth to make it look close, which I guess is better than it not looking close.

Despite the pitching and offense pulling a Freaky Friday for much of the series, The Travs still have the worst offense in the Texas League, scoring eight fewer runs than the next closest team. They still have the best pitching in the league, allowing nine fewer runs than the second-place team, the Wichita Wind Surge.

Speaking of the Wichita Wind Surge, the Travelers welcome them in for a six-game set starting on Tuesday. Former Vandy standout Austin Martin and pitchers Simeon Woods-Richardson and Matt Caterino highlight the Twins Double-A team.

Tacoma Rainiers (5-13) asks for some space, get dumped by Sugar Land Space Cowboys (8-10)

Woof. Last year, the Seattle Mariners’ most MLB-proximal affiliate managed to make the most of being treated as a boarding house for big league depth more than a developmental home for prospects. This year, they’ve struggled to match those heights, in large part due to dire depth issues on the pitching end of things. That should be at least slightly improved when MLB rosters condense by two at the end of April and Seattle is forced to cut their bullpen from 10 to eight, but Tacoma went 0-4 from Thursday thru Sunday in large part due to dicey depth with their arms.

Tacoma struggled to convert at the plate all series against the Houston Astros’ affiliate, scattering 32 hits over the final four games for just 14 runs, or 3.5 per game. They made an effort to address that as best they could, designating for assignment struggling 1B/3B Kevin Padlo and acquiring Seattle Prep High School product OF Stuart Fairchild from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a trade for cash. Fairchild has struggled himself early this year with Triple-A Reno, but it’s clear he’s had success hitting at Cheney Stadium.

Unfortunately, with Taylor Trammell still sidelined and both Evan White and Kyle Lewis still not at a game-playing stage of their rehabilitation timelines, Tacoma has been shorthanded all across the diamond. OF Steven Souza Jr. has had some early success slugging, INF Zach Green cracked a couple big flies, and UTIL Sam Haggerty went yard in the absolutely sparkling clean Throwback Weekend uniforms Tacoma donned for this weekend.

I mean seriously, look at this beautiful jerseys, displayed by outfielder Marcus Wilson.

As such, it was a beautiful struggle for the R Squad all weekend. The starting rotation had little success, as Ian McKinney and Darren McCaughan yielded over a run an inning each, and Nick Margevicius barely danced around four walks and four hits in four innings. Credit to Asher Wojciechowski who turned in the gem of the weekend on Sunday, working 6.0 innings with just the lone run, but a win was not in the cards.

There were some valiant efforts by the young replacements dragooned into duty, including 2021 draftee Ben Ramirez going ya-ya on loan from Low-A Modesto.

Slightly more age-appropriate but still aggressive fill-in OF Trent Tinglestadt has also had a strong early showing. A 4-for-14 long weekend with a triple, three walks, and five strikeouts is impressive for an outfielder with 31 plate appearances above Low-A. It’s likely he returns to Double-A or even High-A at some point in the near future, but it’s nice seeing young players be challenged and step up to the literal plate.

In the bullpen, some promise continued to show. Wyatt Mills has looked sharp in his first six outings, working 9.1 innings of 1.93 ERA ball, getting weak choppers aplenty. Mills lost out in the competition for the final bullpen spot in Spring Training, but it’s good to see he’s come out strong in Tacoma and could be a contributor for the M’s fly ball heavy bullpen as the season drags on. Roenis Elías continues working his way back, still looking solid now through 6.1 IP in five appearances without yielding an earned run. Elías got saddled with the blown save on Sunday night as he allowed the ghost runner to score in the 10th inning, but the run is unearned and no others reached home. His numbers have been promising, but he may take a few more weeks to gear back up, as his velocity is still more 92-94 than the 94-96 he was pumping pre-injury. The late spring addition of former San Diego Padres prospect LHP Nick Ramirez has also been a solid pickup, as Ramirez worked two shutout frames on Friday night. Hopefully Tacoma can keep looking sharp in their threads and tighten things up when they take the field as well.