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Mariners Minor League Roundup: April 18 -23

AquaSox sweep Player of the Week honors, Mike Ford does some yard work, Michael Morales shoves

Jonatan Clase
Shari Sommerfeld

It’s the third week of the season for most of the minor league affiliates and we’re starting to get more meaningful data about the performance of various players around the system. Every level has something fun to watch, whether it’s the next-man-up crew in Tacoma, the Bash Brothers duo of Robbie Tenerowicz and Spencer Packard in Arkansas, the walk-happy Everett AquaSox, or the consistent offensive output of the Modesto Nuts.

Triple-A Tacoma

12-8, 3rd in Pacific Coast League

It says something about the strength of the PCL that the Rainiers took their series against the El Paso Chihuahuas 5-1 and still remain in third place in the PCL behind Oklahoma City (LAD) and Round Rock (TEX).

Hitting heroes:

Now healthy after missing most of spring training, Cade Marlowe had seven hits in 22 at-bats with six walks to seven strikeouts. Of his hits, four were doubles and one was a triple. Marlowe has also showed well in the outfield, throwing out runners at the plate and making some impressive catches.

Taylor Trammell didn’t play every game, but in his 18 at-bats, he collected six hits, including a double and a homer, walking three times and striking out just twice. He capped his week with this round-tripper:

The hitting hero of the week, however, has to be Mike Ford, who had a solid week overall highlighted by a three-homer game in which he totaled eight RBI, including a grand slam.

Prime pitching:

Easton McGee has become the frontline pitcher for this Rainiers club, getting two starts in the six-game series and bookending wins on the series with a pair of solid performances where he surrendered no more than two runs per game. José Rodríguez also had a solid start this week, striking out seven over six innings while allowing just one earned run. Matt Festa worked a multi-inning relief appearance, striking out three over two innings.

Next up:

The Rainiers head out on the road to Vegas. Andrés Muñoz will likely join the club at some point during their stay in the desert to start a rehab assignment.

Double-A Arkansas

10-5, 1st in the Texas League (tied with Tulsa)

After Tacoma got smoked in a 2-4 series loss against the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate Round Rock the week before, the Travelers managed to split a series with Frisco, the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate, despite a lot of wet and rainy weather in Texas. It wasn’t pretty, though: two of the Mariners’ top pitching prospects, Bryce Miller and Emerson Hancock, got hit hard in this series. Miller surrendered six runs on nine hits in his outing, only struck out three (with two walks), and couldn’t clear the fifth inning; Hancock got touched up for nine runs in just three innings, giving up two homers including a grand slam, but did strike out five. Also, outfielder Spencer Packard, who has been torching the ball for Arkansas this year, left after just two at-bats in the opening game of the series and did not reappear.

Hitting heroes:

Once again the crown must be given to first baseman Robbie “Byrd” Tenerowicz. The Bash Bros of Arkansas, Packard and Tenerowicz, currently lead the Texas League in average, with Packard at a fat .441 to Tenerowicz’s .407. However, Tenerowicz held that line through a full week of play, adding another homer to bring him to four for the season, tied for second in the Texas League. He’s also taken nine walks to just 11 strikeouts. Also, he has big Chaos Muppet energy, and I’m here for it.

Prime pitching:

Bryan Woo rebounded from a tough week to have a solid outing; he only went four innings but struck out seven batters and surrendered one earned run with two walks. Woo ranks sixth in the Texas League for strikeouts, with 19; his teammate Prelander Berroa ranks fourth, with 20.

Reliever Devin Sweet has racked up 14 strikeouts in just seven innings, and hasn’t surrendered an earned run yet in four appearances. He and his changeup are a dark horse to join Seattle’s bullpen sometime this year.

Next up:

The Travs return home to face the fellow league-leading Tulsa Drillers (LAD), which should be a great series.

High-A Everett

8-6, second in the Northwest League

The AquaSox took advantage of every mistake made by the Canadians, both in the field and at the dish, and took the series 5-1, but it wasn’t enough to boost them past the league-leading Eugene Emeralds. The AquaSox continue to lead the Northwest League in run differential, however, at +33, and they have taken 88 walks as a squad—17 more than the nearest club, while striking out the least of any team that’s played at least 14 games. They scored at least four runs in every game this series, and their lone loss was a one-run game where they lost 7-8.

Hitting heroes:

This week the Frogs swept the Northwest League players of the week. On the offensive side, Jonatan Clase got the nod, and some much-deserved national attention. Clase hit .333 over the series and led the league with three home runs, seven steals and 17 total bases; two of his homers came in the same game, when he hit one from each side of the plate. His 12 stolen bases lead the league.

He also made an excellent defensive play:

Clase and Hogan Windish are tied atop the NWL leaderboard for homers (3), with teammates Walking Cabrera and Tyler Locklear right behind them with two each. Harry Ford hit his first homer of the season during this series. Clase, Ben Ramirez, and Alberto Rodríguez are all tied for the team lead in doubles, with five each.

Prime pitching:

Reid VanScoter took home Player of the Week on the pitching side after a strong start where he struck out seven over six innings while giving up no runs on just one hit while walking three.

Juan Mercedes, last week’s winner, remains the leader for strikeouts in the Northwest League, with 24.

Next up:

The AquaSox travel to Spokane, which sadly isn’t one of the teams in the Northwest League with MiLB TV.

Modesto Nuts

8-7, 5th in the California League

Modesto, why must you frustrate me so. The Nuts split the series with the league-leading Storm, but could have taken the series with sharper play and better pitching performances, squandering a go-ahead offensive outburst in Game 1 of this series with a bullpen meltdown. Of note, top prospect and part of the Nuts’ fearsome top of the order, Gabriel Gonzalez was removed after one at-bat from Saturday’s game and did not return to the lineup on Sunday, so that’s definitely a troubling situation to monitor, as Gonzalez has been tearing it up this year; his .368 average is fifth-best in the league, second on the team to catcher Freuddy Batista. He’s also struck out just eight times while walking five times, which is great plate discipline for a young power hitter like “El Dron.”

Hitting heroes:

While not one of the big prospect names in Modesto, Freuddy Batista is knocking the tar out of the ball; his .744 SLG is second in the California League and he’s tied for the lead in triples (2) despite being a catcher (and an excellent one, at that). Batista spent time this off-season in LIDOM with the Leones del Escogido, and that advanced education is showing up big so far in the young season.

Prime pitching:

I am delighted to report that Michael Morales had an excellent outing this week, going six innings and striking out eight (!) while walking just one and giving up no runs on just one hit. It’s the most complete performance I’ve ever seen from the Mariners’ 2021 third-rounder and hopefully a sign of things to come.

Next up:

The Nuts get a bit of a reprieve from facing the league’s best and welcome in the Stockton Ports for a six-game set at home.