It’s that time of year where we bring you an overlook of every Mariners MiLB affiliate for the upcoming season. In previous years we’ve started at the lowest levels of the system and worked our way up, but this year we’ll be starting in the high minors—the Rainiers (Triple-A) Monday, and the Travelers (Double-A) yesterday—and working our way down. The reason for this is twofold: first of all, MiLB Opening Day for Triple-A was Tuesday, April 5, as in yesterday; all other leagues (except the ACL and DSL) open this Friday, April 8, so like John Fisher trying to tank his own attendance so he can move his team to Las Vegas, we’ll be gradually shedding A’s throughout week. Secondly, because of the owners’ lockout throwing off the timing of everything this off-season, we don’t yet have a firm roster for who will be assigned to which level. We’ll be making our best guesses based on current rosters and general patterns noted through watching who was assigned where during minor-league camp, and will update each roster accordingly when we have the correct info.
If you’ve been reading the FanPosts you’ll have seen that Ian Wiltamuth did a roster preview for each level based on some observations with specific info on each of the players; we won’t be going as in-depth on every player as Ian did, so definitely give his articles a look. We’ll link to the relevant one in each preview.
2022 Everett AquaSox
2021 Season in Review:
2021 marked Everett’s transition to a full-season affiliate in the creatively named High-A West (West) league. Thankfully they ditched that name to bring back the Northwest League and its stunning logo. After losing nine of their final ten games, the AquaSox finished 61-56 and missed the playoffs by seven games. 2021 was a big year for prospect debuts in Everett, with Julio Rodriguez passing through and Noelvi Marte and Alberto Rodríguez finishing the season with the AquaSox.
The AquaSox start their season on April 8 at home against Eugene in a three-game series. They are off every Monday while playing a six-game series from Tuesday through Sunday. The regular season wraps up at home on September 11. The All-Star break is July 18-21. The full schedule is here, and ticketing info is here.
If the chance to see a borderline top-ten prospect in baseball wasn’t enough incentive to make the jaunt up to Everett, then perhaps their promotion schedule will convince you. Every Friday home game is Funko Friday, featuring a free giveaway from Funko. There are eight fireworks nights, including June 4, which is also one of the Copa de la Diversión nights and Pride Night. It is easier to link to the whole promotion schedule here, but I first need to mention Union solidarity night and a jersey giveaway on August 18, Funko Friday on August 19, and a George Kirby bobblehead giveaway on August 20: a potentially spectacular weekend to make it up to Everett.
AquaSox staff features three new faces to Everett in Manager Eric Farris, 25-year old hitting coach Ryan McLaughlin (I’m sorry, I still haven’t wrapped my head around how we’re the same age), and pitching coach Matt Pierpont. They are joined on the bench by Jose Umbria. We covered them more in-depth here.
Due to the owner-imposed lockout pushing spring training back, we still don’t have an accurate roster for the AquaSox, despite opening the season in approximately 48 hours. I’ll use my best judgment and Ian’s preview to get as close as possible. Whenever the roster is officially updated, it can be found here.
The one name that we can safely write in pen here is Noelvi Marte. The Mariners’ #2 prospect got a cup of coffee in Everett last year, playing his final eight games there. Beyond the developmental benefits of keeping him in A+, the added benefit of drumming up fan interest by keeping Marte local to Seattle probably doesn’t hurt. Marte will be joined on the left side of the diamond by Tyler Keenan, the Ms 2020 fourth-round pick out of Ole Miss. Keenan had an underwhelming 2021 in Everett with a .196/.304/.357 slash line in his first season in the Mariners organization. The chance to repeat the same level will likely allow Keenan to improve on those numbers. Burly slugger Robert Perez will occupy first base. Perez was signed out of Venezuela in 2016 and played all of last season in Modesto, where he had a strong season with a 114 WRC+. Cesar Izturis Jr, a natural shortstop, will move to second base to accommodate Marte. Izturis, who has seemingly been in the Mariners organization for approximately a decade despite only being 22, was actually part of the same international signing class as Perez, also coming over from Venezuela. He leaves some to be desired on offense, but his defense and leadership in the locker room are key reasons he is still in the organization. The good news is that the bench should be pretty versatile this year, with three players who can line up in multiple positions in Justin Lavey, Cody Grosse, and Rule 5 (MiLB) pick Dariel Gomez. The bad news is that Gomez is the only one of that trio who had a successful 2021, and at age-25 with 50+ games at the level already, he’ll probably be one of the first out the door for promotions. 2019 9th round pick Mike Salvatore rounds out the bench for the AquaSox.
Alberto Rodríguez will follow the same path as Noelvi Marte yet again. The duo got called up to Everett on the same day last year, and they will anchor the lineup for a good portion of this season. Rodriguez, the return in the Taijuan Walker trade, skyrocketed up prospect lists last year, settling in as the #8 prospect in the organization from MLB Pipeline. Another jump this season seems within the realm of possibilities for the 21-year-old. Not bad for someone who was just considered Noelvi’s childhood friend when the trade was announced. Speedster Victor Labrada is another player who shot up prospect rankings over the last year. The Mariners signed Labrada out of Cuba, where he absolutely raked, putting up a 1.069 OPS in the top league at just 18. He joined the Mariners right before the pandemic shutdown and picked up right where he left off when he was finally able to return to the field in 2021 with a .771 OPS with 32 stolen bases across Modesto and Everett. 2021 7th-round draft pick Colin Davis will occupy the other starting outfield spot after putting up a 128 WRC+ last season in Modesto. He and current Modesto player Brett Rodriguez are both alums of tiny Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC.
Trent Tinglestad (I don’t know if that’s a 20-grade name or an 80-grade name) will play a decent amount after putting up a respectable .384 OBP last season in Modesto; Tingelstad is well-acquainted with Everett, having played there after being drafted in 2019 when it was a short-season affiliate. Grosse and Gomez will also see time in the outfield.
A 5th round pick in 2021 out of Baylor, Andy Thomas is slated to be the starting backstop to start the year in Everett. He impressed during his handful of games to close out last season for the AquaSox. He is the second most famous Andy Thomas behind an Australian Astronaut; not a totally relevant fact, but a fun fact nonetheless.
Sam Carlson highlights this bunch. Calling Carlson’s path a bumpy road would be an understatement. Something like Rainbow Road would be a more apt description. After injuries and a pandemic took most of the shine off Carlson’s prospect pedigree, he bounced back in 2021 with a solid and, more importantly, healthy season in Modesto. Even with that, he was left unprotected in the Rule-5 draft, which was ultimately canceled. A big season in Everett would go a long way for Carlson and his standing in the organization and around baseball. If you want to see Taylor Dollard and Bryce Miller, you might have to make it out to a game before the All-Star Break at the latest. Both are potentially quick risers or potential lottery tickets in a trade. Dollard had an absurd 11.4 K/9 last season across Modesto and Everett. Miller’s K/9 of 14.5 was even more impressive, albeit in a tiny sample size. Miller, a 2021 draft pick from Texas A&M, has one of the best fastballs in the entire organization. hitting up to triple digits in bullpens this off-season; he might see work out of the bullpen as a high-leverage reliever. Carlson’s BFF and fellow injury warrior LHP Max Roberts also projects to see time at Everett this year; Roberts had excellent command before his injury, and is working to gain that back to pair with a strikeout percentage well over 25%. Trading Connor Phillips out of this crew puts Everett down a starter, so expect to see a fair few bullpen days before the team assigns someone here to be a starter or starts stretching out one of the relievers.
If you love late-round draft picks or undrafted pitchers with shaky command and phenomenal strikeout percentages, may I interest you in the 2022 Everett AquaSox bullpen? This bullpen is Rob Manfred’s worst nightmare. Ben Onyshko, Brendan McGuigan, Jarod Bayless and Luis Curvelo all had a strikeout rate of over 30% last season (and Travis Kuhn just missed, at 29.6%), but struggled on and off with walks. Kuhn and Curvelo were both impressive at the Arizona Fall League this past fall, especially Curvelo, who was one of the youngest prospects in the league, at just 20. Matthew Willrodt has been jockeyed all over the organization and can flash big strikeout stuff but needs to master his command, something that should be easier to do if he’s allowed to stay in one place for a while. Fred Villarreal has more modest strikeout totals but commands the zone well, which is why the organization is happy to send him as a spot fill-in up in Tacoma.
MLB Pipeline Mariners Top 30 Prospects at this level:
Marte (2), Rodriguez (8), Dollard (15), Labrada (26), Carlson (29)
MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects at this level: