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Mariners Minor League Round-Up: June 20-25

Congratulations to the playoffs-bound Arkansas Travelers!

Congratulations to the Arkansas Travelers, who clinched a spot in the playoffs by winning the first half championship for the Texas League North. It’s especially impressive considering the attrition Arkansas has suffered on the pitching side, losing two starters and their closer to the big-league club. But Mike Freeman, former Mariner, has done a swell job captaining this ship and the Travs are the first-half victors. Good for them.

Tacoma Rainiers

37-38, 3rd in Pacific Coast League West

The Rainiers continue their season long trend of scoring a lot of runs and allowing even more as they yet again split the week’s series against a not so great El Paso team. It’s been a battle against mediocrity with Tacoma, scarcely ever deviating too far from .500. That said, this week did provide some exciting moments from the few noteworthy names in the prospect world on Tacoma’s roster that may force the front office’s hand into making a few moves at the big league level.

Prospect update:

Taylor Trammell had an unbelievable week in the launching pad of El Paso, finishing the series 13-27 with an even 4/4 K/BB ratio, three doubles, and five homers (!!!). Also finding himself with a nice week was Cade Marlowe, going 10-28 with a double, a triple, and three homers. He also cut back a bit on the K’s, with just five this week paired with three walks. Marlowe happened to have a truly incredible performance on his birthday in El Paso, where he went 5-5 with a homer and three stolen bases. Not a bad birthday in my book.

The pair of young outfielders have each had their struggles this year, Trammell being in the majors and Marlowe at the Triple A level. Fortunately, some sustained hot hitting can insert either of them right back into the promotion conversation as the major league lineup looks for some needed upgrades. My bet would be Trammell, but maybe they would want to give Marlowe a shot if he keeps this stretch up. Regardless of who may or may not receive a promotion, it’s a more than welcome sight to see the tandem swing the bat with some success.

Prime pitching:

In a series where the Rainiers seemingly allowed the entire state of Texas to score, Eric Stout had a really nice outing on Sunday that saw him tally eight K’s over five scoreless innings. The minor league journeyman signed with the Mariners a few weeks into the season and has recently switched out of the bullpen and into a starting role where he’s seen improved success.

Next up:
The Rainiers will start a bout with Salt Lake starting, an equally middling team the Rainiers should have a good shot at.

Arkansas Travelers

45-24, 1st in Texas League North and playoffs-bound, baby

The Travelers had quite the series against Wichita that saw them clinch a spot in the playoffs as the first half champions of the Texas League. Taking five of the six games, the Travs were dominant outside of a clunker in the first game of the series. Arkansas will be riding a five game win streak heading into the mid-season break.

Prospect update:

Jonatan Clase continues to scuffle a bit with a 4-22 week that included a double, a triple, three walks and nine strikeouts. Double-A is quite the leap from High-A and continues to give him fits, particularly in the strikeout department. That said, he’s continued to play excellent defense out in centerfield and may just be pressing a bit too much at the plate to try and get out of this nasty funk. He’s still got his blazing speed and raw power, he’s just got to get back to making consistent contact. On the pitching side, Emerson Hancock has continued to string together some quality starts together, this week going six innings and allowing just two runs. Hancock is probably the toughest Mariner prospect to figure out, with consistency having been his Achilles heel throughout the year. With his recent success, Hancock has pitched to a 2.16 ERA in the month of June, striking out 24 and walking just four in 25 innings of work.

Hitting hero:

Isiah Gilliam continues to be a revelation for the Arkansas lineup, putting together a nice 8-21 week with four homers, six K’s and three walks. A castaway from the Reds organization, Gilliam signed with the Mariners in the offseason and and has consistently produced in the middle of the order. Only 26 years old, there’s a shot Gilliam has unlocked something and could flourish into a helpful big league player should he earn a promotion to Triple-A and continue to rake.

Prime pitching:

Prelander Berroa was lights out for the Travelers this week, where he made three appearances and surrendered just one hit while striking out five. Maybe an even better sign, Berroa hasn’t walked anybody since the 13th of June, a major sign of development for the young flamethrower. The Travs bullpen has been a big reason for their sustained success this year, with guys like Travis Kuhn, Devin Sweet, Isaiah Campbell, and Jorge Benitez all making significant contributions alongside Berroa. It wouldn’t shock me if we were to see one or more of these players in a Mariner uniform at some point this season or next.

Next up:

The Travs take on Springfield to kick off their second half on Wednesday.

Everett AquaSox

34-32, 3rd in Northwest League

Thank goodness the Arizona Diamondbacks are having success at the big-league level, because the Hillsboro Hops are definitely...not. This week Everett took care of business against the cellar-dwelling Hops, taking five games in the six-game series. They didn’t make it easy on themselves, though, winning three of their games by just one run (and losing one by one run, as well, in 11 innings), and needing extra innings to take the W in Sunday’s finale.

Prospect update:

Victor Labrada has returned to Everett and the lineup looks a lot longer for it. The 23-year-old Cuban speedster had a solid week out of the top of the Frogs lineup, outside of a rough 0-for-5 day, with five hits and three walks over the week, but only stole one base for all those times he’d gotten on base from the leadoff spot. Harry Ford put up almost the same line as Labrada out of the two-hole, but added a double and a triple as he continues to work towards finding his power stroke in High-A. Like Labrada, he’s difficult to strike out and will take a ton of walks, making the 1-2 of Everett’s lineup a real headache for opposing pitchers. The headaches don’t stop there as next pitchers have to contend with the red-hot Alberto Rodríguez, who continues to press for a promotion to Arkansas; this week he had seven hits including a double and triple, and only struck out five times while taking three walks. Axel Sánchez continues to struggle with strikeouts at this level, but came through with two big hits this week, including a game-tying double and this clutch home run in extra innings:

He also continues to dazzle on the diamond, making highlight-reel plays from shortstop on the regular.

Raul Alcantara is a lesser-known name as a lefty who has some command issues, but when he’s hitting the zone, he’s very difficult for hitters to see: he collected nine strikeouts in six innings of work this week and walked just one, although he allowed two home runs.

Prime pitching:

Logan Rinehart has emerged as a solid option for the closer role, and he locked down a save and a win this week in two clutch victories.

Next up: the Sox take on the decidedly trickier Eugene Emeralds, the team just ahead of them in the standings, at home. Head on out to Funko Field and cheer on the FrogBois!

Modesto Nuts

34-32, 3rd in California League North

The Nuts continue to slump, getting leapfrogged in the standings this week by losing five of six to Fresno. The problem with the Nuts isn’t so much the offense—Modesto has scored the second-most runs in the entire Cal League—but the pitching, which gave up 43 runs over the course of the series.

Prospect update:

Michael Arroyo has risen to the top of the Nuts’ lineup, where he’s handling leadoff duties with aplomb. He’s continuing to walk more than he strikes out and added another 10 (!) hits this week, with four more doubles and a triple. He should be shooting up prospect lists very soon.

Cole Young also continues to show excellent plate discipline, walking as often as he strikes out, but his bat has cooled some, with just one extra-base hit (a triple) this week. Gabriel González continues to make all kinds of contact and is another nightmare for pitchers to contend with in Modesto’s long, bothersome lineup, but he also had just the one triple this week along with a raft of base hits. Milkar Pérez continues to steadily improve after really struggling at this level last year; like his teammates, he hit for a good average this week and even popped a couple of doubles, but he’s still waiting on his first homer of the season. This group of young hitters should start putting the ball over the fence with some consistency soon, but maybe not soon enough to save them from their pitching woes.

Michael Morales started off the week strong with a solid first start, giving up just two runs (one earned) over six innings of work, walking one and striking out three. In his second turn out, he had really good stuff, collecting eight strikeouts, but took a tough L as the Nuts couldn’t overcome the five runs (four earned) he gave up over another six innings.

Hitting hero:

The Nuts put slugger Gabe Moncada on the IL after he was hit by a pitch on the foot/ankle area, which means it’s an opportunity for co-team-leader in HR Colin Davis to surge ahead and grab the lead all to himself. A 2021 seventh-rounder from tiny Wofford College, Davis is a speedy plus-defense outfielder but packs some sneaky pop in the bat as well; the seven homers he’s hit so far have already surpassed his season total from last year.

Prime pitching:

Last week saw Darren Bowen highlighted as an interesting arm lurking in Modesto’s bullpen, this week we’ll highlight perhaps my (Max’s) favorite relief prospect in the system, RHP Troy Taylor. The Mariners actually drafted Taylor twice in back-to-back years, once in the 20th round and again in the 12th round last year. Taylor had a tough start to the year, but since the beginning of May has really turned things around. Walks are Taylor’s biggest problem as of now, but the stuff is absolutely electric. The fastball has a lot of carry up in the zone and the slider is unreal. If he can cut down the walks a bit, he’ll be an absolute force.

Next up: Things don’t get any easier for Modesto as they travel to San Jose to take on the Giants.

ACL Mariners

8-6, first in ACL West

Starlin Aguilar, who worked hard on his conditioning this off-season after a disappointing first couple of seasons in pro ball, hit his first home run of the season this past week, which is encouraging as he didn’t hit any last season in the ACL. George Feliz also hit his first home run of the season this week as he tries to bounce back from a tough first season in the ACL. Lazaro Montes isn’t slugging like he was in the DSL, but is working on lowering his strikeout rate and continues to hit for a very high average. Under-the-radar 2021 IFA signing Luis Suisbel has one of the more hilarious statlines you’ll see: he’s striking out 35% of the time but walking 23% of the time and also getting on base via singles, doubles, and the occasional triple, much like he did in the DSL last year.

DSL Mariners

9-6, 5th of 9 in Dominican Summer League South

Jeter Martinez continues to impress in his first year in the Mariners organization. The top prospect out of Mexico in last year’s class, Martinez has been dominating his competition at just 17 years of age. The 6’3 righty has fluid mechanics and has already been up to 94 in game. He’s one of a handful of young pitching prospects I’m really keeping my eye on. The offense has struggled to score runs, but the pitching has been absolutely lights out. As a team, they’re top ten in most major pitching statistics, including ERA, strikeouts, walks allowed, and homers allowed (They’ve only allowed one all year!).