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Mariners minor-league roundup: Opening Weekend!

Two undefeated affiliates in Modesto and Arkansas, and lots of other fun down on the farm

Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers minor leaguers
Emerson Hancock showing the Mariners how nice he looks in Northwest Green
Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

We’re easing back into our coverage of the Mariners’ minor league system this season and are excited to share some new things with you. Keep a lookout this week for our 2023 prospects list, which will be dropping in installments, and for our minor-league roundups every Monday (or sometimes Tuesday mornings).

Triple-A Tacoma

5-3, third in Pacific Coast League

After dropping their first two games away, the Rainiers returned to Cheney Stadium with a vengeance, thumping the Reno Aces in the first two games of the opening homestand by a combined score of 22-5 and then sweeping the Friday doubleheader. Reno got their revenge on Saturday, though, crushing the Rainiers 4-19 and giving Taylor Dollard a very rough welcome to the PCL, racking up two runs on two hits against him in just 2.2 innings pitched—although that was small potatoes given the damage inflicted on the rest of the Rainiers pitching staff. You can look at the carnage in the box score here, if you’re strong of stomach.

Hitting Heroes:

Brian O’Keefe has already slugged four homers, tied for fourth in all of the PCL; teammate Mike Ford has three. In a happy turn of events, OF Zach DeLoach has found the PCL to his liking so far; he has three doubles and a homer so far, and is hitting a robust .370.

Prime Pitchers:

Now to the group who don’t enjoy the PCL as much. It’s no secret that it’s tough going for pitchers in the PCL, although that’s not usually the case for chilly Tacoma in April. Poor Brennan Bernardino got the doors blown off him in that Reno romp, but looking beyond his now-unsightly ERA of 12, he’s collected 11 strikeouts in just six innings pitched, fourth-best among all PCL pitchers.

Next up:

The Rainiers travel to Texas to face the Round Rock Express, the Rangers’ affiliate. Today’s game is actually underway already, a 10 AM start; the rest of the week, games start at 5:05 PT (11:05 AM on Sunday), and all are viewable on MiLB TV.

Double-A Arkansas

3-0, first in Texas League

Here’s to the Rainiers, who absolutely manhandled the Astros’ affiliate, the Corpus Christi Hooks, in their opening series, sweeping them away like so many crumpled wrappers at Whataburger Field. Bryce Miller didn’t have the easiest opening to his season, giving up four runs on seven hits in just over four innings pitched (two of them on a two-run homer) and striking out four. But the Travs bullpen held strong, including Juan Then making his Double-A debut with a scoreless inning with two strikeouts, and the offense was able to rough up Hooks starter Spencer Arrighetti (mom’s spaghetti-lover and the 10th-ranked prospect in the Astros org) for six runs in just three innings en route to a 9-5 win. After Friday’s game was postponed, the Travs went on to sweep Saturday’s doubleheader behind an excellent start by Emerson Hancock with a convincing 5-0 win, and then eked out a 9-8 win in an evening bullpen game. Sunday’s game was postponed for rain and will be made up.

Hitting Heroes:

I was surprised when free agent signee Robbie Tenerowicz was assigned to Arkansas, and he seems to agree, collecting five hits in his first 11 at-bats for the Travs with a double and a home run. Spencer Packard is right behind him with four hits of his own, and every member of the Travs’ starting lineup has at least one hit on the season already. It’s a nice start after Arkansas continually struggled to produce offense last year.

Prime Pitchers:

Emerson Hancock was dominant in his start, striking out seven over five innings of work and allowing no runs on three hits with just one walk.

Next up:

The Travs have their home opener at Dickey-Stephens Park, welcoming in the Springfield Cardinals for a six-game set including two matinees (Wednesday and Sunday). All games are televised on MiLB TV. Brian Woo will get the start today.

High-A Everett

1-1, third in the Northwest League

Because of the rain in the Northwest and MLB’s inexplicable decision to convert the NWL to full-season ball, the AquaSox have only played two games, splitting their opening homestand with Eugene.

Hitting Heroes:

Hogan Windish has played two games and hit two home runs, which seems pretty good. Top prospect Harry Ford leads the team in hits, including a triple, and speedster Jonatan Clase has two hits, both doubles, and has swiped three bags already.

Prime Pitchers:

Juan Mercedes was excellent in the home opener, scattering six hits over six innings but striking out nine while allowing just one run. Kyle Hill struck out the side to secure an extra-innings, 4-3 win.

Next up:

The AquaSox begin a series at Hillsboro today, which is one of the rare Northwest League parks with MiLB TV, so you’ll be able to tune in and see Harry and the gang.

Single-A Modesto

3-0, first in the California League

Like the Travs, the Nuts are off to a perfect start, walloping the Stockton Ports (A’s) over a three-game set, although one by design rather than via rainout. The Nuts scored thirty combined runs over the three-game series, which tells you a little about the haplessness of the Ports pitching but also the composition of the Nuts, a fun mix of younger prospects like Cole Young and Gabriel Gonzalez with some seasoned college players and free agent signings, like hurler Allan Saathoff, who struck out three over 1.2 innings in his debut for Modesto. Fun fact: Modesto’s team average is .358, with an OPS of 1.008. Small sample size fun, but fun nonetheless.

Hitting Heroes:

Basically, the whole team is composed of Hitting Heroes right now. Freuddy Batista, returning for a second season with Modesto and now able to get all the catching reps with Harry Ford in Everett, has six hits, including a homer and a double, in 10 PAs. Other members of the home run club in Modesto: Josh Hood, Bill Knight, and Gabe Moncada. Josh Hood’s home run is the king of them, though, as his was a ninth-inning, go-ahead grand slam.

Cole Young has four hits including a triple, and he and Milkar Perez are fighting it out to see who will take more walks this season: they both already have four apiece. Gabby Gonzalez has seven hits; three of them are doubles. We’ll see how they fare against the tougher San Jose pitching, but so far, if you want to see some offense, turn on the Modesto game.

Prime Pitching:

Lefty Blake Townsend, a favorite of Ryan Rowland-Smith and fellow Aussie, is finally healthy and is coming out of the gates hard, striking out seven in just 3.1 innings so far with no walks. If I already blew your mind with the name Allan Saathoff, buckle up for this one: Shaddon Peavyhouse, a free-agent signing out of UNC, also has seven strikeouts, albeit in six innings of work.

Next up:

Modesto gets to have their home opener at last, playing the San Jose Giants at home over the week, which will certainly prove a tougher test of this young Nuts squad, as San Jose always seems to be competitive. All games will be televised on MiLB TV.