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Mariners Minor League Roundup, July 18-23

A no-no in the DSL, new draftees in the ACL, and some thrilling games from the Everett AquaSox

Jeter Martinez

There’s some new looks to the clubs in the farm as players get promoted and new talent infuses the system from the draft and signing periods. If you’re local and you haven’t been out to catch the Everett AquaSox yet, do so now. The top of the lineup is packed with some of Seattle’s best prospects in Cole Young, Gabby Gonzalez, and Harry Ford, along with Axel Sánchez, maybe the best defensive prospect in the system, and speedster Victor Labrada. The lineup is also anchored by some college hitters in Hogan Windish, James Parker, and Ben Ramírez, who’s also been lighting it up defensively lately over at third base. The pitching is the weak side for the AquaSox, so the offense is often called upon for Feats of Strength to help propel the Frogs to thrilling walkoff victories. It’s definitely worth braving the Everett traffic to see a game.

Tacoma Rainiers

10-11, 3rd place in PCL West

The Rainiers managed to split the series 3-3 with the River Cats, the San Francisco affiliate. The Rainiers’ lineup is a shell of its former self right now, losing both Cade Marlowe and Taylor Trammell in the span of a few days due to major league promotion. It could be tough sledding from here on out for the Rainiers, a team that won’t have the luxury of many prospect promotions in the coming months.

Hitting Hero:

Sam Haggerty had a hot week at the plate against the River Cats, going 6-21 with a whopping eight walks. The speedy super-utility man is the odd one out right now for the big league roster, especially with Dylan Moore possibly finding his rhythm, but it feels as though it’s almost assured we’ll see Haggerty up with the big league club before the season’s end.

Prime Pitching

Recently acquired Adam Oller made his organizational debut and shined, going eight innings and allowing just three hits en route to eight K’s and two earned runs. Oller has had some prospect pedigree in the past, being one of the pieces acquired in Oakland’s Chris Bassit deal. At the very least, Oller is an interesting option for the Tacoma rotation and could eat some innings for the big league club if they were in a pinch.

Up Next

The Rainiers will take on the equally middling Salt Lake Bees this week, Anaheim’s affiliate that features former staples of the Angels lineup David Fletcher and Jared Walsh.

Arkansas Travelers

12-8, 1st in Texas League North

The Travs retain a tight grip on first place in their division, even as they split with the Springfield Cardinals, in a series that showed some dominant pitching performances from the Travs. The dominant bullpen lost Devin Sweet and Prelander Berroa (briefly) to the majors, but the ‘pen held strong and still features plenty of electric arms that can help the Travelers win the close games they have all year. There’s not a ton to say about this team; they have a winning formula they’ve used since day one and it’s worked phenomenally. They get on base, they swat home runs, and their bullpen keeps them in it. It sounds simple, but they execute it nearly every night.

Prospect Update

Emerson Hancock was truly excellent this week, throwing seven shutout innings that saw him surrender just one baserunner all day. Paired with seven K’s, Hancock had perhaps his best start in the Mariner system to date at a very opportune time. Whether it’s helping cover innings down the stretch or trade bait, a consistent Hancock will be a tremendous value to the ball club. Offensively, Jonatan Clase had just three hits this week but continues to play a tremendous center field. Clase is getting on base at over a .400 clip this month, but has a lost a bit of that tremendous power he displayed earlier this season. He’s striking out less, but losing that extra base impact is a tough trade off. Finding the proper balance between power and contact is the next step in his young career.

Hitting Hero

The Travs got a major contribution from Spencer Packard and his excellent bat in a series that saw him go 11-24 with three walks and two strikeouts. Packard, despite his large frame, is not a stereotypical masher. He’s got a great ability to hit and avoids strikeouts while getting on base at a near .400 clip. He is already 25 and is somewhat limited defensively; however, there just aren’t a ton of advanced bats in this system right now and Packard is one of the few I feel like has a real chance to make an impact early next year. He’s been heating up (.889 OPS in July) and could be the first of many Campbell Camels to make his big league debut in a Mariner uniform.

Prime Pitching

Hancock stole the show, but Kyle Tyler followed him up with an impressive outing of his own. Going 7 shutout innings and surrendering two hits, Tyler’s outing was eerily similar to Hancock’s the day before. The Travs can use all the pitching they can get right now, and Tyler eating some quality innings was a tremendous help.

Up Next

The Travelers will take on their in-state rival this week, duking it out with Northwest Arkansas. The Naturals have had a subpar season thus far and are close to the bottom in most offensive categories. Look for the pitching to build on its recent success.

Everett AquaSox

14-10, 2nd in Northwest League

The infusion of new talent into Everett has pushed them up into second place in the NWL, rare air for a club that’s scuffled and struggled with consistency for most of the year. The Frogs had a very exciting series this week against the Tri City Dust Devils, an Angels affiliate. The entire series featured four close wins for the AquaSox, with no game being decided by more than two runs all week. Serious levels of shenanigans were afoot in this series, with none matching the absurdity of Everett’s 12-11 win on Wednesday. The Frogs were dominating all day, yet managed to lose it all and blow an eight-run lead in the ninth. With absolutely zero momentum on their side, the AquaSox managed to immediately rally back and score two in the ninth, walking it off on an infield knock that the recently-promoted Gabriel Gonzalez managed to leg out. With the entire lineup starting to click at the same time and improved starting pitching, I cannot encourage you enough to get out and see the AquaSox while you can, or at least fire them up on MiLB TV. They are must-watch television right now.

Prospect Update

With the highest concentration of talent in the system’s affiliates playing in Everett, it’s easy to take some of the absurd performances we see on a nightly basis for granted. This week alone saw Gabriel Gonzalez go 6-26 and slug four homers while Cole Young went 7-24 with four walks, three doubles, and two homers. Both of the literal teenagers have an OPS well over 1.000, with GG at 1.056 and Young at 1.323. Their longer-tenured teammate Harry Ford had a bit of a rough week, but still managed to get on base at solid rate and continues his excellent defense behind the plate, where he both blocks errant pitches from Everett’s staff and guns down runners attempting to steal with strong and accurate throws.

Hitting Hero

The lineup had a very balanced week this week, but I’ll give this week’s award to Ben Ramirez. Going 8-22 with three doubles, Ramirez was a steady force this series for the Frogs this week and was crucial to several big rallies. He also made several defensive plays showcasing a strong, accurate arm at third base. Ramirez has had a tough year at the plate this season, but there’s a chance this series could act as a shot in the arm for him and get him back to where he needs to be.

Prime Pitching

The starting pitching has improved immensely in recent games, with some purely dominant starts from multiple guys this week. I can’t pick just one, so I won’t. Jimmy Joyce has been great for the AquaSox when he’s pitched this season, and he continued his winning ways with a 7 inning 10K gem that saw him surrender just one run on three hits and a walk. This, however, was upstaged by the brilliance of Raúl Alcantara, who spun seven innings and allowed two runs, but struck out 13 Dust Devils and walked none, a huge improvement for Alcantara, who’s been working on his command this season. The lefty is only 22 years old and has primarily worked as a reliever in his time in the system, but has been starting this year with varying results. The stuff is there and it wouldn’t surprise me if he winds up back in the ‘pen, but we just saw the best version of Alcantara to date this week and it’s exciting to say the least. If he can finish out the year strong and control the walks, he’s got a shot to stick in the rotation next season.

Next Up

It’s a clash of two powerhouses this week as Everett heads to Vancouver to take on the league leading Canadians.

Modesto Nuts

10-14, 3rd in California League North

Unfortunately, Everett’s boon is Modesto’s burden, as Modesto was in a similar spot to Everett for the first half of the year: an inconsistent pitching staff that was held up by a strong offense. Now that offense is missing its two major drivers, and it’s still a few weeks too early for any ACL players to be promoted. With all that being said, though, the Nuts valiantly battled to a series split this week with the league-leading Fresno Grizzlies, battling not just their opponents but triple-digit heat.

Prospect update:

With Young and Gonzalez promoted, Michael Arroyo has slid into the two-hole and the teenager now bears the responsibility for getting Modesto’s offense going night after night. This week was a struggle for Arroyo, who had just a double and a single to show for the week, striking out four times (which is a lot for the gimlet-eyed Arroyo) while walking twice. Michael Morales had a solid start, grading on a slight curve as he was pitching in the hottest game of this series: 106 degrees at first pitch. Still, “Moose” went 5.1 innings, giving up two runs on three hits while walking two and striking out five.

Hitting hero:

Bill Knight has stepped in to the leadoff role in Modesto and is doing beautifully with it. The 2022 10th-rounder had eight hits in this series, three doubles, and stole four bases while holding down center field for the Nuts—three of them came in one game, where he single-handedly helped propel the Nuts to a 3-2 victory.

Prime pitching:

Tyler Cleveland, our most presidentially-named prospect, continued to be the rock of Modesto’s staff, going five scoreless—again, in punishing, triple-digit heat—to help guide Modesto to a narrow 3-2 win in the second game of the series.

Next up:

The Nuts welcome in Visalia, who are in last place in their division, but with the same record as the Nuts.

ACL Mariners

22-11, 1st in ACL West

The draftees (and UDFAs) have arrived! 19th rounder and Fairfield College superstar, 3B Charlie Pagliarini, led off for the ACL Mariners on Saturday, collecting two hits, while 17th-rounder Jacob Sharp did the catching in that game. A pair of undrafted free agents (both found by area scout Ty Holub, who really works that CAA/Eastern seaboard area) also made their season debuts in that game: 2B Jarrod Belbin, Australian-born but yet another Campbell College Camel; and 1B Hunter Fitz-Gerald, who announced his presence loudly with a three-run home run.

The extreme heat in Arizona (110-113 degrees at game time!) necessitated a lot of rotating for players and shortened seven-inning games, but the Baby M’s didn’t let that stop them. Lazaro Montes continues to evolve into a three-true-outcomes monster, clubbing three homers and a pair of doubles while walking four times and striking out six in 21 plate appearances. Ricardo Cova, a largely unheralded signing in 2021, continues to get on base out of the leadoff spot at a breakneck pace, collecting five hits this week in four games, walking three times and striking out five and stealing six bases. Luis Suisbel had a weeklong cycle, hitting a single, double, triple, and homer, as well as walking five times and striking out four.

On the pitching side, Walter Ford had a solid outing, with 3 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, and 3K. Venezuelan Kristian Cardozo, who idolizes Félix, had a start the King would be proud of, with 5 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, and 8K.

DSL Mariners

15-19, 6th in DSL South

Exciting stuff this week as the DSL Mariners threw a combined no-hitter headlined by prospect Jeter Martínez. Martinez pitched six innings and struck out eight, walking just one; his effort was supported by Yensy Bello, a 2022 signing, who struck out five over the final three innings as the DSL Mariners crushed the DSL Cardinals 9-0. Outside of that, the Marineritos had a tough go this past week, losing two games in a row via walk-off and winning just two games this week.

Pitching-wise, the DSL Mariners boast a strong staff. They rank third in the entire DSL—a 50-team league—in ERA, and third in strikeouts, trailing just affiliates for the Astros and Rangers. However, the Marineritos have walked significantly fewer batters than either of those two squads; they rank third in the DSL in WHIP, putting them in a sweet spot between striking out a ton of batters while mostly limiting free passes. The pitching staff is obviously led by Martinez, who ranks first in the entire DSL for ERA, but they have several other arms who can rack up the strikeouts. Harold Melenge, a 2018 signee who has been slowed with injury, recorded 10 strikeouts in five innings, tying him with teammate Gleiner Diaz with 35, good for 28th in the league. Jose Romero, a 2023 signing out of Venezuela, had seven strikeouts in 3.1 innings this week; Joseph Yabbour, who’s on his second shot after being released by the Twins, also had seven strikeouts in three innings pitched.

Offensively, the DSL Mariners continue to struggle. They rank second in the entire DSL—a 50 team league—in strikeouts, with an eye-popping 353 combined this season, while walking in the bottom third of all DSL teams.