After a solid week of work, the affiliates preserve their perfect top-to-bottom winning record, although it was dodgy at times, with Tacoma dropping five of six in Vegas. Modesto swept the hapless Stockton Ports, Arkansas won their series, and Everett split a series before a fair number of Mariners fans in Spokane who turned out to see both their Spokane Indians and the Mariners prospects.
14-12, 2nd in Pacific League West (4th overall)
The Rainiers’ run differential of +28 is the best mark in the PCL West, and the second-best in the PCL behind the league-leading Dodgers and their bonkers 20-6 record. That’s impressive considering they just lost five of six in the desert to the Las Vegas Aviators, the A’s affiliate; the one game they won was started by an emergency callup from A ball for the Aviators and featured Kevin Cron (C.J.’s brother) pitching by the end. Players may enjoy road trips to Vegas with its shiny new ballpark and the area’s amenities, but it’s an absolute nightmare zone for pitchers: there were a ridiculous 115 combined runs over the six games of this series, none nuttier than a 17-18 loss on Wednesday, so take all of these games with a giant grain of salt. Cooper Hummell delivered a 10th-inning triple in the lid-lifter to help secure a 9-8 win with Matt Festa earning the save. The Rainiers lost Game 2 after blowing a large lead with Justus Sheffield allowing eight earned runs as part of a ten-run inning; he was released on Thursday, meaning no parts of the James Paxton trade remain in the organization. They’d go on to lose the next three games, with Tacoma’s pitching staff giving up runs even more quickly than their offense could produce them, thinned out by the loss of their best starter, Easton McGee, who was summoned to the big-league club. Later in the series, the Rainiers also lost the hot bat of Taylor Trammell, also called up to the big-league club, but managed to rally for a big win on Sunday.
Cade Marlowe was 10-for-27 this week with two triples, a double, and a homer, all while playing a very strong outfield, using his speed to make highlight-reel catches and his strong arm to cut down runners trying to take an extra base. He didn’t walk at all and struck out six times, though, so there’s still work to do with that plate discipline. Zach DeLoach had six hits over the series including a double and a home run, and walked and struck out an even amount of times (7).
Cade Marlowe blasts a 2-run HR! Cade needs the double for the cycle. pic.twitter.com/NBNLJCp5fY— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 27, 2023
There were some loud calls to bring Mike Ford up to Seattle during the Mariners’ lengthy scoreless inning streak. He had two doubles and three homers this week while only striking out twice—oh, and two of those homers were grand slams.
Mike Ford's April:— Mike Curto (@CurtoWorld) April 30, 2023
.337/.439/.730, 9 home runs, 39 RBI in 24 games, 89 at-bats. Two grand slams.
On pace for 234 RBI which indeed would be a record.
This is a tough one to give out given [gestures in general direction of Las Vegas]. Matt Festa threw three innings in two appearances, surrendered one run, struck out two and didn’t walk anyone, and earned a save. Riley O’Brien also had three innings in two appearances, striking out three but walking four, and didn’t surrender a hit.
Tacoma stays on the road, heading to Salt Lake (LAA)—a slightly less punishing offensive environment than Vegas, but not by much.
14-7, 1st in Texas League North (1st overall)
The Travelers entered the week taking on their division rival and fellow heavyweight Tulsa Drillers, the Dodgers’ AA affiliate. The Drillers and Travelers were each tied atop the division entering the series, yet the Travs pitching and clutch hitting bested the Drillers and they took four of six, putting them in sole possession of first place in the Texas League. Every game of the series was close, with four of them being decided by just one run, and the other two ending in a 4-1 win for Tulsa and 3-1 win for Arkansas. These teams should be battling it out all year for the division title, with Arkansas likely to see reinforcements coming soon from several AquaSox that are raking to start the year. It’s a rivalry to keep your eye on as the summer progresses.
The Travs sport the bulk of their prospect pedigree on the mound, with a rotation featuring four of the organization’s top prospects in Bryce Miller, Emerson Hancock, Prelander Berroa, and Bryan Woo. The Miller-Hancock-Woo trio absolutely shoved this week, combining to throw 15 innings of one run ball and amassing 21 strikeouts. Maybe even more impressive were the four total hits surrendered across those innings, limiting nearly all traffic on the basepaths for half the games against the always dangerous Tulsa Drillers. Berroa had one of the most befuddling stat lines you’ll see, akin to the timeless Justin Dunn start where he was pulled from one of his first starts despite not allowing a hit. Berroa gave up one hit, a double, and struck out seven batters, yet walked six in just 3.2 innings. The result is just two runs allowed, however I’m not sure I would consider this start a win for Prelander and his well-documented control problems.
Bryan Woo was awesome. Final line: 5IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 8K, 72-49. The 1 hit was a bloop single. pic.twitter.com/jh30OLxMag— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 30, 2023
The only “true prospects” on the offensive side are Robert Perez Jr. and Spencer Packard, with the former having more pedigree than the latter. Perez had an exceptional week, going 7-21 with four walks, a homer, and a walkoff winner on Friday night. The ten strikeouts are a considerable concern, but it’s hard to argue with a six game stretch that saw Perez raise his OPS nearly one hundred points. Packard had been out with an injury for the series prior and part of this one, but returned late in this series and was able to hit a dinger over the weekend. He is off to an exceptional start thus far, a welcome sign for the 25-year-old 9th rounder from the 2021 draft.
Robert Perez Jr. WALKS IT OFF! pic.twitter.com/i7otb8aMJo— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 29, 2023
Spencer Packard’s 1st 12 games at Double-A:— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) May 1, 2023
.390/.460/.610/1.070, 16H, 3 2B, 2HR, 11R, 10RBI, 6BB, HBP, 10K, 2SF. #ARTravs
The bats were relatively quiet over the series with the Drillers, a Dodgers affiliate that sports some quality arms throughout their staff. That said, the aforementioned Perez Jr. did some incredible work and the team leader in nearly every offensive statistic Robbie Tenerowicz chipped in with a homer and four walks despite a “down” week for him where his average tumbled all the way down to .357. Outside of Perez, the lineup is largely made up of players over the “prospect age” of 25, with different players chipping in on various days to get the job done. They are a scrappy, tenacious team that scores their runs any way they can.
The previously covered pitching was obviously outstanding, so to highlight some other excellent work, I’ll turn to the bullpen. Travis Kuhn logged three innings of shutout ball across two outings, while the newly-promoted lefty Jorge Benitez logged three K’s in his first outing in the Texas league. Devin Sweet, despite surrendering his first runs of the season, continues to show his multi-inning ability and still sports a minuscule ERA of 0.82 on the season.
2 scoreless innings in the Double-A debut of Jorge Benitez. pic.twitter.com/C8Y2pWLaXX— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 30, 2023
The Travelers head to Springfield, Missouri to meet up with the Cardinals affiliate for their next stretch, a team that has had middling success thus far.
11-9, 2nd in Northwest League
The AquaSox have the best run differential in the Northwest League, which is even more impressive considering the number of times the Rockies affiliate Spokane Indians hung double-digit runs on the pitching staff this series. After getting off to a hot start with some commanding wins—15-2 and 9-5, respectively—the Sox got a taste of their own medicine in the third game, losing 8-17, and then suffering a rare offensive power outage in a 1-3 loss. They rebounded for a come-from-behind, late-innings 10-7 win but again got blown out in the series finale, 8-15.
Harry Ford had a nice week, showing off a power stroke with two homers, increasing his season output to three, along with three doubles. He also added seven (!) more walks to his league-leading total, while striking out nine times. Alberto Rodríguez continues to make a case for his promotion to Everett, collecting 11 hits without even playing in Sunday’s series finale with three doubles and a homer. He also continues to show better plate discipline in a second look at Everett, only striking out five times while walking twice; he’s currently walking more than he strikes out.
Fresh off his first-ever Player of the Week award, Jonatan Clase was once again the story of the week, as he continues to make that “30” power projection on his FanGraphs scouting report look more quaintly outdated than a rotary phone. He had 11 hits in 28 at-bats, including four doubles and four home runs, putting him into the league lead with seven—the next closest players have four. He also added three more walks, and trails just teammate Harry Ford in that department—Harry has 22 to Jonatan’s 17. He also swiped four bags to bring his season total to 16, also a league-leading mark. He did strike out eight times, something he’s working hard to cut down, but in general, looks much different than he did in Low-A at this time last year—he’s more comfortable and confident in the box, and is making better swing decisions.
• 55 hitters in the minors have 5+ HR. Their average age is 25.— Stephen Nickrand (@StephenNickrand) April 28, 2023
• 16 hitters in the minors have 10+ SB. Their average age is 23.
• One hitter in the minors has 5+ HR and 10+ SB, and he's 20 at High-A: Jonatan Clase, Mariners (6 HR, 14 SB). Also one of 79 bats with 15+ walks. pic.twitter.com/Laf1zA2ycI
This was not...a banner week for Sox pitching. We’ll give a hard-luck loss award to Reid VanScoter, who pitched four solid innings, giving up two runs, walking three and striking out six, on a night when the AquaSox offense outside of Clase suffered a weird power outage. With the promotion of Jorge Benitez, Ty Adcock has been given the closer role in Everett, but was also able to pitch two innings to help nail down Everett’s extra-innings win, the lone win they collected outside of the first two games of the series. So far this season he has nine strikeouts in just seven innings. Juan Mercedes continues to lead all of the Northwest League in strikeouts, with 30.
The Sox return home and face the Angels affiliate, the Tri-City Dust Devils.
14-7, 1st in the California League North (3rd overall)
Chaos Ball has trickled down to the lowest levels of the system: the Nuts earned three walkoff wins this series in a sweep over Stockton and have four walkoff victories this month. They sit atop the Cal League North despite the San Jose Giants, right below them, having double their run differential (the Stockton Ports, who the Nuts played this week, are at a -69. Not nice). The Nuts won easily in the first game of this series, 10-2, then walked off on Wednesday, survived a late push by the Ports on Thursday, walked it off in extras on Friday, won by one on Saturday, and again walked it off in extras on Sunday. Frustrating result for Stockton, great result for your Modesto Nuts.
Outfielder Gabriel Gonzalez remains sidelined with an undisclosed injury; Miguel Perez has been summoned from the complex in his place. Cole Young had a day off Sunday; over the rest of the week he went 6-for-23 with three walks and two HBPs, including a double and a pair of triples. As soon as those XBHs start flying over the fence he’s about to become a very buzzy prospect.
Cole Young triples on the 9th pitch of the at-bat. pic.twitter.com/ismX927HyJ— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 29, 2023
RHP Michael Morales was the starting pitcher during the decisive Game 1 win, only surrendering two runs over five innings while striking out six and earning the win. He got stuck with a no-decision on Sunday but was again sharp, striking out eight over 5.1 innings while walking just two and giving up no runs. The Michael Morales California League Redemption Tour continues apace.
5 shutout innings with 8 strikeouts for Michael Morales. pic.twitter.com/jrtlvtNioe— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 30, 2023
Modesto doesn’t have a ton of over-the-fence pop—they’re tied for third in the Cal League with 13 on the season, led by Beefy Boy Freuddy Batista—but they absolutely wallop the rest of the league in OPS, as they’re near the top of the leaderboard in hitting for average and taking walks, and at the top for slugging despite not muscling too many balls over the fence, something that will undoubtedly change as the weather warms and their young core gains more experience. No player exemplifies the Nuts Way more than 2022 sixth-rounder Josh Hood, who has just a pair of homers (including one very big walkoff grand slam) but is slugging .500 with a .315 average, while also nabbing nine bases. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts (23 to just 5 walks), but there’s lots of pop in his bat and he plays a sharp defensive infield. He had eight hits this series, including three doubles.
Josh Hood gives Modesto the lead! pic.twitter.com/00sCl24q9Q— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 30, 2023
2022 18th-rounder Brandon Schaeffer didn’t get any run support and wasn’t granted a win despite giving up just one run over six innings with ten strikeouts (and just one walk!), so this shall be his moment of recognition for the week, as well as the recognition that pitcher wins are stupid.
Modesto heads to San Jose, who have been right on Modesto’s heels this season in battling for first place in the California League North.