It’s been a wild couple of weeks in the Mariners system with trades and promotions. This week, in lieu of the normal State of the Farm update where we break down every affiliate performance, instead we’re going to catch you up on all the latest news: promotions, draft signings, and standout performances on the farm for the month of July.
Starting rehab assignments: RHP Ken Gilles (Everett), OF Taylor Trammell (Tacoma)
To 7-day IL: INF Joe Rizzo (AA)
Signed to minor league deals: RHP Felipe Bello, SS Jonathan Villar (AAA-Tacoma)
Activated: C/INF Josh Morgan (AAA-Tacoma), RHP Phillips Valdez (AAA-Tacoma)
Released: OF Alex Blandino, C Luke Roskam, OF Myles Miller
Also of note: OF Jack Larsen, who was brought up from Arkansas as an emergency fill-in, was DFA’d off the roster and outrighted back to Arkansas.
- To Double-A Arkansas: RHP Isaiah Campbell, RHP Prelander Berroa
- To High-A Everett: LHP Jorge Benitez, 1B Robert Pérez Jr., SS Ben Ramirez
- To Single-A Modesto: RHP Stefan Raeth, 1B Gabe Moncada, OF Gabriel (Gabe) González, SS Axel Sanchez, RHP Gabriel Sosa, 2B Hogan Windish
The most exciting of these promotions is probably OF Gabe González, “El Dron,” because it’s really exciting when players you haven’t seen at all start playing for full-season affiliates with MiLB TV. Unfortunately, this week Modesto is at Stockton, which doesn’t have TV, so we’re yet to see El Dron in action, but in his debut on Tuesday night, when Modesto pounded the Ports 18-1, he collected three hits in five PAs, albeit all of them singles. With all the trades, the 18-year-old is now the Mariners’ #4 ranked prospect after being signed in the 2021 IFA period for $1.3M, a significant chunk of Seattle’s $5.3M pool. González is toolsy but most of those tools currently carry an average grade, but he’s been very productive everywhere he’s played, so the Mariners are challenging him with an aggressive assignment.
2B Hogan Windish is a 2022 draftee, a seventh-round senior sign out of UNC-G. He’s an advanced bat who had a star turn on the Cape Cod League earlier this summer and might not stick in Modesto for long; he collected four hits in his debut and has 11 total hits in his first four games, including three doubles. RHP Stefan Raeth is another 2022 draftee—those Husky baseball fans among us might recognize him as UW’s closer—but since Modesto has been blowing the doors off Stockton this week there’s not been much call for him yet.
RHP Gabriel Sosa did get into a game; he pitched 2.1 innings in his Modesto debut and allowed two hits but no runs, walking one and striking out one. Sosa was signed in 2019 and spent 2021 with the DSL Mariners, and the first part of 2022 in the ACL.
Everett sees their two best starting pitchers this season taking the long flight from Everett to Arkansas, as Prelander Berroa and Bryce Miller found themselves promoted in rapid succession. They both strike out a ton of batters with nasty stuff, though Miller is certainly the brighter star of the two, and the more likely pitcher to stay in the rotation long-term. Berroa has some significant bullpen risk with his sky-high BB rate, but his two main pitches (the four-seamer and the slider) might benefit from shorter outings, where he isn’t forced to throw the sub-par changeup as often.
Isaiah Campbell, Everett’s starter-turned-closer will join his two fellow Frogs in a Travs’ jersey. He has been sublime since his conversion to the pen.
Players of the month:
Michael Arroyo (3B/SS) ranks 12th in OPS in the entire DSL, which is even more impressive when you consider how many players that is; there are literally 11 pages of results for the DSL player stats. The 17-year-old has drawn praise for his mature understanding of the strike zone and pure hitting ability, which is a lot of times scout code for “no power yet”, but his .549 SLG mark ranks 14th in the DSL, close behind power-hitting titan and fellow Mariners prospect Lázaro Montes. Arroyo could be a faster mover than a typical international signing; he already has stateside experience, having played in the New Balance Future Stars series, and a good sense of the strike zone is one of the quickest ways to skip over more rookie league time and get to a full-season affiliate, as the ascension of Gabe González, who consistently kept his strikeouts around 15%, shows. Arroyo is well on his way there, currently walking almost as often as he strikes out, and is one to watch for at spring training this year.
The Nuts traded their highest OPS player in Edwin Arroyo and promoted the second-highest OPS player, the notorious RPJ, so this honor goes to Harry Ford for position players, but that’s fair from faint praise. Ford has steadily been improving since an early-season injury threw him off course, and he finished June slugging .542, and finished July hitting .338. The next trick for Ford will be hitting for average and for power at the same time, while continuing to improve his strikeout rate—he’s crept up to about 24% over the past couple months, which is just a tick higher than where you’d like it to be at this level, but it’s also important to remember that Harry is still six months shy of his 20th birthday, often facing pitchers with significantly more experience in pro ball.
Harry Ford blasts a 3-run HR! pic.twitter.com/ARc5GLB45d— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) July 15, 2022
Ford narrowly edges out Jonatan Clase, now Modesto’s second-best qualified position player, who is actually out-slugging Ford but gets dinged in OBP as he’s still working to get his strikeout rate down. His 39 stolen bases rank first among active players in the California League.
Similar to the position side, Modesto is now without both their closers: Andrew Moore went in the Castillo deal, and Jorge Benitez, who was leading the California League in saves, is now with Everett. Happily, Joseph Hernández has rebounded from some ineffectiveness caused by a minor arm injury and is back to leading all qualified pitchers in the Cal League in ERA, with 3.10.
An under-the-radar name to know:
Freuddy Batista has had to split time behind the dish with Harry Ford, but he’s determined to wedge his way into Modesto’s lineup some way. After missing most of May and June with a hand injury, Batista has been red-hot since he rejoined Modesto, slashing .301/.379/.458 over July.
Freuddy Batista GRAND SLAM! It’s 18-5 in the 6th. pic.twitter.com/vftGf0Cjo5— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) August 1, 2022
Batista is a true catcher, but obviously won’t get a ton of work behind the dish while he’s in Modesto and has been playing first base to get his bat into the lineup. With Andy Thomas dealt to the Giants for Curt Casali, Everett has an opening for a catcher, but it would be a aggressive assignment for Batista, in his first year of full-season ball. If he keeps hitting like this, though, he’ll force the issue sooner rather than later.
The cupboards have been stripped bare in Everett - over the last month, we’ve seen Noelvi Marte, Bryce Miller, Prelander Berroa, Isaiah Campbell, Andy Thomas traded, Spencer Packard is still hurt, and some of the other early stars of the season have cooled down. So, for the relatively slim pickings, we’ll go with Alberto Rodríguez for the position players. The outfielder put up a 113 wRC+ in July, adding five doubles (he is now second in the league in doubles), two triples and two home runs. There’s still another gear here, as we look at an overall down season for the left-handed hitter, with previously-discussed mechanical adjustments. Still, he put together a solid line this month, slashing .277/.320/.436.
On the pitching side, we will give it to the recently-departed Isaiah Campbell. He spent all of July in Everett and it was a good month for him - seven appearances, going 4-for-4 in save opportunities, and giving up 0 (zero) (none) earned runs during July. In fact, since his return to the pen in early June, Isaiah has yet to give up a run - 15 appearances, 15 innings, 20 strikeouts, only eight hits. It would be no surprise to see Campbell high on the list for injury call-ups to the big-league pen this fall or next summer.
An under-the-radar name to know:
Keep an eye on SP Bryan Woo. He’s a recent call-up from Modesto to take Prelander’s spot in the rotation, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t earn his way up - he’s sporting a 2.70 ERA this year in a hitter-friendly Cal League. At 22, he’s not young, but this is his first full season as the Mariners’ 2020 6th-round draftee after being sidelined with some injuries. I’m excited to see if he can thrive in this pitcher-friendly environment.
As Harry Ford is the lone possible Top-100 prospect left standing on the position side, so too is RHP Emerson Hancock the last remaining top pitcher, but the outlook is much brighter for the former Georgia Bulldog now than it was a few months ago, when he had fallen off the lists entirely. Hancock announced he was back in a big way with what was universally declared the most impressive inning thrown by a pitcher at this year’s Futures Game, and he’s been equally impressive for the Travelers. In July, Hancock’s ERA shrunk down to a minuscule 1.54, as he struck out 23 in 23.1 innings while walking eight and only allowing one home run all month. Acquiring Luis Castillo takes any remaining potential pressure off Hancock regarding a possible late-season call-up, so he can just focus on finishing out his first full season of pro ball and maintaining his health.
As our national poet laureate once said, here’s the situation: the Tacoma Rainiers are once again the victims of something that I like to call Dipotopox, which is made most dangerous when it arises in conjunction with PCLitis. Triple-A has rarely been the true final step for players long-term to join Seattle on their journey to big league success. While J.P. Crawford, Taylor Trammell, and Jarred Kelenic have spent some time in T-Town before joining or vacillating betwixt the show and the show before the show, much of the M’s roster is notably light on time in Tacoma. Julio Rodríguez never played a game there, perhaps even including 2020 due to injury, while Ty France only has been there as an opponent. Logan Gilbert made merely a single start, and George Kirby skipped the level entirely.
Suffice to say, the July standout is not a top prospect, but a veteran of the highest order. LHP Fernando Abad appeared in eight games in July, allowing just one run, four hits, and a walk in 9.0 innings alongside 10 strikeouts. The 36-year-old southpaw is crafty in the extreme, known to break off eephus pitches and all manner of shenanigans as he continues a professional career that includes time in the systems of eight big league clubs, multiple indy ball clubs both stateside and in Mexico, and several turns in the Dominican Winter Leagues and the Caribbean Series.