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Mariners Farm Team of the Month (May)

Welcome to the first installment of the LLofties

Bryce Miller was superb this month
Shari Sommerfeld

This week, in lieu of the normal State of the Farm post, we’re going to recognize the top performers at each position for the past month and create an All-Star Team for the month of May down on the farm. “All-Star” is in this case somewhat relative, as certain position groups are deeper than others; we battled over who would take the five starting pitching spots (Kyle attempted to sneak in the entire Arkansas Travelers rotation), while Justin Lavey ran unopposed at second base. In cases where it was close, we tried to look at other factors, like a player’s age at the level or other contributions like defense or stolen bases. Next month this should be an even more fun exercise as rookie-level ball will have been well underway at the complexes, and the month after that we’ll have a crop of new draftees to talk about. Whee! But on to the distinguished award that is the Lookout Landing Farm Team of the Month, or the LLofties.

Catcher: Andy Thomas (A+)

Thomas has been mashing this season. His 146 wRC+ is second on the Everett roster, and sixth in the Northwest League. He certainly has been propped up by a little bit of good BABIP juju (BABIP north of .350 for a not-particularly fast guy), but he’s also just been making a ton of loud contact, which tends to get the job done. In May specifically, the 2021 fifth-round pick ran an .880 OPS, with a very-good .414 OBP, and had six multi-hit games.

Runners-up: Harry Ford (A); Jake Anchía (AA)

Ford has been hurt this month, but was off to a strong start before that; Anchía is probably the best defensive catcher in the system, and has some pop.

First base: Robert Pérez, Jr. (A)

This was one of those easy ones. Robert “Bobby Bombs” Pérez has been on a tear in Modesto; his 15 homers lead the Cal League and have him tied with Royals 1B prospect Vinnie Pasquantino. He’s the youngest player to hit 15 or more homers in the minors currently, tied with the now-promoted Nolan Gorman (Blue Jays 20-year-old prospect Orelvis Martinez is close, with 14). Who knows where #MariahCarey for homers started, but it’s alive and well in the California League:

Second base: Justin Lavey (A+)

A tough position across the farm, Justin Lavey made this one easy by being absolutely superb - the only player in the farm who won Player of the Month for their league! His terrific month included a run where he got on base in 16 out of 18 games, a slash line of .347/.419/.507 for May and six stolen bases. The Louisville alumnus went undrafted out of college, but has started to make an impact in his two years in the Mariners farm system.

Shortstop: Edwin Arroyo (A)

With apologies to Noelvi Marte, this was one of the easiest choices to make, as no one on the farm has been hotter than Arroyo over the past month. His .320 average ranks fifth in the Cal League, and he’s got more plate appearances than any of the other players above him; he’s also younger than any of the other players he shares the leaderboard with. The only player close to him in age and production is Arizona’s first-rounder Jordan Lawlar, who’s currently on the shelf with an injury. Arroyo’s performance has him in some pretty lofty company, too:

Runner-up: Noelvi Marte (A+)

Weird to have the best prospect in the system a runner-up, but it’s been slow going for Marte as he adjusts to the tougher pitchers and cooler temps of the Northwest League. Noelvi is still the second youngest player in the League, and not every prospect has a meteoric rise, so some patience and grace is still required here - he’s got plenty of talent and will likely figure it out. He’s still running a 111 wRC+ (100 is league average). Let’s see what he can do in June, when temperatures (and his bat) hopefully warm up.

Third base: Ben Ramirez (A)

The 2021 13th-rounder is old for the Cal League at 23 but has been a key part of Modesto’s lineup this season thanks to solid bat-to-ball skills and good plate discipline.

Outfielders: Jarred Kelenic (AAA), Jonatan Clase (A), Zach DeLoach (AA)

It sucks to have Kelenic here, which he would probably agree with, but hey: let’s all make the best of a tough situation. After a slow start with the Rainiers where he struck out so much, Jarred seems to be getting his stride back in Tacoma; his current slash line is a redonkulous .316./357/.633, and he’s pairing that with some pretty incredible defense:

Jonatan Clase missed a week this month after being hit on the hand with a pitch, but has come back strong; his 19 stolen bases lead the system. He walloped two homers in his first game back and is slugging .434, an impressive mark for a speedy center fielder like Clase.

Packard has been, by far, the most complete player in Everett this season. The former Campbell Camel is old for the level at 24, but has showcased excellent plate discipline, walking almost as often as he strikes out, and with eight homers, has provided a much-needed lift to an often-offensively-sluggish Everett team.

Runner-up: Zach DeLoach (AA)

DeLoach has slowed down some since getting off to a red-hot start in Arkansas; he’s still taking his walks but is striking out too much, which is hurting his on-base skills—something he’ll need as he’ll likely never be a power threat.

Starting Pitchers: Taylor Dollard (AA), Bryce Miller (A+), Adam Macko (A+) Joseph Hernández (A), Juan Mercedes (A+)

Miller has easily been the best pitcher in the farm system - of qualified pitchers, he sports the lowest FIP (2.19) xFIP (2.96), K% (32.7%), K-BB% (24.8%)...the list goes on and on. He’s simply been dominant. A 1.27 ERA in May secures his spot, as did a three-game stretch of 26 strikeouts vs just 9 baserunners. Stud stuff.

Right behind Miller is Taylor Dollard—or ahead of, if you consider that Dollard is actually younger than Miller but having near-equal success at a higher level. Miller’s FIP is only marginally higher than Miller’s, and he’s striking out over 25% of batters he sees while walking just around 5%. Nothing in Dollard’s arsenal is overwhelming (his fastball hangs out around 93 MPH), but with Seattle’s pitching struggles this year, Dollard might be a surprise call-up to spell a beleaguered big-league bullpen.

Macko had a strong May, recording four great starts before leaving to the 7-day IL with an injury. The pride of Slovakia has electric stuff from the left side, and has notched two starts this season with more than ten strikeouts. His May saw him settle down a bit from a shaky April, with an ERA of 2.55 and a 35.9% K%. Command has been the issue for Macko, but when he gets a handle on that, his rise should be meteoric.

Joseph Hernández has been the ace of a shaky Modesto rotation; he’s punching out over 30% of batters faced while keeping his walks under control.

Juan Mercedes has the trust of the organization, as they’ve been willing to send him all over to cover pitching shortages, much like they used Penn Murfee when he was in the minors. Like Murfee, once Mercedes has been allowed to settle in at the High-A level, he’s been strong, recently throwing a seven-inning no-hitter that was the first for the AquaSox as a Seattle affiliate. Unlike Murfee, Mercedes is going through High-A at just 22 years old.

Runners-up: Connor Jones (AA); Levi Stoudt (AA), Stephen Kolek (AA)

Why not make the whole all-star team out of Travelers? Jones was signed to the organization after being cut loose by St. Louis; he’s on his fourth tour of Double-A but seems to have unlocked something with the Travelers, earning the organization’s Pitcher of the Month award after twirling a seven-inning no-hitter. Stoudt was one of the pitchers we argued over, because his ERA has been dinged some by a little homer problem in Arkansas, but he’s done a much better job with limiting his walks on his second bite at the Double-A apple and continues to show steady improvement. Kolek is the reigning Texas League Pitcher of the week after throwing six shutout innings; walks are a problem, but he’s preternaturally good at getting weak contact, allowing a HR/FB rate of under 6%.

Relievers: Matt Brash (AAA), Andrew Moore (A), Michael Stryffler (AA)

Moore has the highest strikeout rate of any pitcher in the system with more than 20 innings, at 40.7%. He can suffer the occasional bout of wildness, but has been the most reliable high-leverage bullpen arm in Modesto. Stryffler leads the system in saves, with 9, and has only blown a save once. Matt Brash is still finding his footing in Tacoma as he transitions to the bullpen, but is striking out almost 42% of batters faced.

Runners-up: LHP Jorge Benitez (A), Leon Hunter Jr. (A+), Travis Kuhn (AA)

Benitez has the second-most saves in the system (6) and has become Modesto’s most reliable high-leverage bullpen arm behind Moore. Hunter Jr. and Kuhn are tied for third-most saves with 3 apiece.