For the low minors (below AAA), the regular season has come to an end, and sadly, none of the Mariners affiliates have advanced to the post-season. So as each affiliate’s season comes to a close we will be highlighting each team: how their season went, and the standout performances from both highly-touted prospects and some sleepers to keep an eye on. So far we’ve covered the Modesto Nuts (A) and the Everett AquaSox (A+). Next up is Double-A Arkansas.
Final Record: 73-65, 2nd in the Texas League North
I don’t know if this will make them feel better or worse, but the Travs had the best run differential in the Texas League and had an expected record of 79-59, which would’ve been tops in the league. Arkansas had an absolutely dominant pitching staff, led by Taylor Dollard. As a team, the Travs led the Texas League with a 1.30 WHIP and were top three in just about every other pitching statistic. Unfortunately, the offense just lagged too far behind to be legitimate contenders. The offense was dead last in OPS at .738 and in the bottom half of the league in almost every offensive statistic, despite a couple of solid offensive contributors that we’ll get to below.
Does it truly count as a subtraction if it was only for the last week of the season? If yes, then Cade Marlowe going to Tacoma to continue his season was the most notable “loss” of the season. Beyond Marlowe, the Travs avoided much of the mass exodus that the lower levels saw around the trade deadline. The loss of closer Michael Stryffeler for Curt Casali hurt the Travs pitching down the stretch, as did losing starting pitcher Levi Stoudt for Luis Castillo, but they brought in plenty of reinforcements to the pitching staff, speaking of which...
It almost feels like Jerry Dipoto was personally challenged that he couldn’t build the best pitching staff in the organization solely in Arkansas. We know about the dominance of Taylor Dollard and Emerson Hancock, but the additions to the pitching staff later in the season should bring a lot of optimism in the future. Nick named him the AquaSox pitching MVP, but there’s an argument for Bryce Miller getting some recognition in Arkansas too. Miller ended his season on a high note with a career-high 14 (!) strikeouts.
I know I don’t need to hype up Miller more than he already is, but good lord, I am excited to see what he can do in 2023. Prelander Berroa was a strikeout machine during his time in Arkansas with a “patently absurd for any starting pitcher not named Jacob deGrom” 35.6% K rate. Berroa will need to cut down on his 16.8% walk rate moving forward, but the stuff is pretty clearly there. Isaiah Campell impressed as a reliever in both Everett and Arkansas, and it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him in Seattle at some point in 2023. The strike-throwing Campbell can be a legitimate weapon if he can cut down on his .393 BABIP and come anywhere close to his 42.9% K rate and 3.6% BB rate.
Team MVP, offense: Cade Marlowe
Covering the team all season, it can be easy to get lost in the day-to-day and not really notice the trends, but when I wasn’t looking, Cade Marlowe turned into a superstar. From opening day on April 8th until the end of May, Marlowe had a slash line of .230/.337/.345 for an 81 wRC+. He was adding some value on the basepaths, but he wasn’t showing much to predict what came next. From June 1st until he got called up to Tacoma on September 14th, Marlowe slashed .321/.402/.552 for a 142 wRC+. Marlowe put together his second consecutive 20/20 season, joining a very exclusive list.
Prospects with multiple 20 HR/20 SB minor league seasons at High-A or above in the last 20 years:— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) September 11, 2022
2018/2019 Kyle Tucker, Houston
2017/2019 Sam Hilliard, Colorado
2014/2015 Jared Hoying, Texas
2013/2014 Joc Pederson, Dodgers
2021/2022 Cade Marlowe, Seattle
That's the list.
Marlowe got especially hot in September, almost as if he dared the Mariners to let him continue his season.
Most hits in the minors past 2 weeks— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) September 14, 2022
1. Cade Marlowe (28)
Most HRs in the minors the past 2 weeks
2. Marlowe (7)
Most total bases in the minors in the past 2 weeks
1. Marlowe (57)
Highest AVG, past 2 weeks
1. Marlowe (.538)
Highest SLG, past 2 weeks
1. Marlowe (1.096) https://t.co/Ff0ShIbNq4
I don’t know if I would totally rule out the idea of Marlowe seeing time in Seattle before the season is over, especially because he is Rule-5 eligible this offseason and seems like a lock to get selected if he is left unprotected.
Honorable Mention: Joe Rizzo
Part of me wanted to shout out Jake Scheiner here because he finished the season on a high note and is more of an under-the-radar guy than Rizzo, but I am fascinated about Rizzo’s future in the organization, and thus he is the choice. Rizzo is another Rule-5 eligible player. If you had asked me last week, I would’ve said the Ms would leave him unprotected once again this winter, but they made a curious decision during the final game that has me second guessing that when they started Rizzo in right field for the first time in his professional career.
Joe Rizzo handles his 1st play in the outfield. pic.twitter.com/sDKv2ZxWsG— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) September 18, 2022
It is very plausible they just wanted to try something during the last game of the season. Still, if Rizzo can be a legit utility player—the former third baseman played ten games at first this season and has a more extensive history at first and second in 2021—then his value increases quite a bit. Ideally, the Mariners find a spot on the 40-man for him this winter, but if not, I hope he goes to an organization that will give him a legitimate shot at playing time going forward.
Team MVP, pitching staff: Taylor Dollard
Dollard was the only possible choice for this one. The pitching staff was very impressive, but I think I would argue that Dollard was the best player in the entire organization in 2022, sorry Harry Ford. Dollard led the Texas League in almost every significant category, and most of them weren’t that close. He had a 2.25 ERA, a 3.61 FIP, a .248 BABIP, a 0.95 WHIP, and a 0.56 HR rate. Not terrible, IMO. Just for safe measure, he also finished with a 16-2 record and a league-leading 144 innings. Dollard did everything asked of him and then some.
What a year for Taylor Dollard.— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) September 16, 2022
27G, 16-2, 2.25ERA, 144IP, 106H, 31BB, 131K. https://t.co/AswvwSr2ze
Depending on what happens this offseason, I could see Dollard battling Emerson Hancock for a potential spot in the Seattle rotation. If nothing else, he made covering the 2022 Arkansas Travelers a lot more fun than it would’ve been without him every five days.
Honorable Mention: Emerson Hancock
I really wanted to either go with Bryce Miller here because I am incredibly excited about Bryce Miller, or go with more of an under-the-radar player like Travis Kuhn or Dayeison Arias. Still, Hancock is the “correct” answer here. 2022 was a bounceback year for the former top-ten pick. If nothing else, Hancock’s 98.1 innings were more than enough to be encouraged about his prospects going forward after only throwing 44.2 innings in 2021. The fact that Hancock was actually good in those 98.1 innings is a great sign for the future and his ability to contribute in 2023. None of his stats jump off the page, but I’ll take a 3.75 ERA in his first full season, an ERA that would’ve been considerably lower if not for a concerning 1.46 HR/9. If Hancock can cut that number down and continue to maintain something close to his .244 BABIP and his 9.2% K rate, he should be in a position to make his way to Seattle at some point in 2023.
Outstanding start by Emerson Hancock. Final line: 5IP, 2H, 1R, 3BB, 9K, 92-50. pic.twitter.com/eXU2EBf0Iv— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) September 14, 2022
An unheralded player to have on your radar: Juan Then
Okay, I know Juan Then is far from unheralded as he has been in the organization on and off since 2017 and was at one point one of the highest-rated prospects in the org, but it feels like he has completely fallen off the radar over the last year and change. For as long as it feels like Then has been a mainstay, he is still somehow only 22 years old—reader, I too gasped when I saw that. Injuries limited him to only ten innings with the Travs in 2022, but the fact that the Ms are sending him to the Arizona Fall League shows that he is clearly of some importance to the organization. It is possible they are sending him there just to get some more competitive innings in this year or to spotlight him to other teams in a potential trade, but Then is younger than every other player mentioned here; it is far too early to write him off, especially when he can do this.