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Mariners Minor League Roundup, August 15-20

Lazaro Montes does his best Julio impression, Harry Ford walks it off, Jonatan Clase heats back up

Shari Sommerfeld

Runs were easy to come by down on the farm this week, with major prospects ascending to truly otherworldly levels. With prospect rankings being updated by most major outlets as of late, the Mariners system is seen leaguewide as a below average unit that is fighting for mediocrity. While it’s not an elite farm system akin to a few years ago, suggesting the talent in this system is lower than average is misrepresentative of the ceiling of the farm. The system, when looking from a national level, is overflowing with talent that is unproven and inexperienced. While prospects can certainly fizzle out when they’re this far from the big leagues, the balance of astronomical ceilings and fun “floor” players provides elite upside. Obviously the players have to make it work, but with how things have been trending, I’d say that’s a pretty solid bet.

Tacoma Rainiers

27-18, tied for 1st in Pacific League West

The Rainiers remain tied with the Las Vegas Aviators for first place in the PCL West, not helping themselves out this week by splitting a series with the Sacramento River Cats. The Rainiers got off to a booming start with an 18-8 win where Cooper Hummel, Zach DeLoach, Riley Unroe, and Robbie Tenerowicz all went yard, but then dropped the next game as Darren McCaughan got touched up for six runs in four innings and the Rainiers only mustered two runs despite the best efforts of Zach DeLoach, who continued a hot run with a two-hit day including his 20th double of the season, and Cooper Hummel, who had two doubles. The Rainiers rebounded on Thursday in a 9-0 win behind a shutout performance from Kyle Hart, who scattered three hits over 5.2 innings with seven strikeouts; Zach Muckenhirn, Devin Sweet, and Stephen Kolek all combined to keep Sacramento from scoring later in the game. Jake Scheiner, Taylor Trammell, and Ryan Bliss all homered in the game.

The Rainiers offense couldn’t pick up Tommy Milone in the fourth game of the series despite a seven-inning performance where he gave up four runs, but were able to eke out a 6-5 win on Saturday, managing to stave off a five-run inning from Sacramento, before dropping the finale, failing to score a run against Sacramento in a bullpen game.

Zach DeLoach has been floating around the Mariners system since the 2020 draft and has consistently provided above average production. The lefty has been knocked in prospect rankings due to fairly average tools and a corner outfield profile, but every system needs a Zach DeLoach and their steady output. He’s been a victim of the relative depth of outfielders at Tacoma this season, being passed over for a big league chance in favor of Cade Marlowe and Taylor Trammell. Is there room for DeLoach in the Seattle outfield equation? I’m not sure. Will Zach DeLoach play in a big league outfield? I’m almost certain of it. Wherever he gets his shot, I wish him all the best.

Next up: The Rainiers and Aviators square off head-to-head in Vegas for first place in the PCL West. With the way the ball flies in Vegas and the Rainiers’ lineup this could be a really fun series if you like offense.

Arkansas Travelers

18-26, 4th in Texas League North

Wooooof. Things continue to go poorly for the Travelers, who lost yet another series, 2-4, to the Amarillo Sod Poodles. The problem for the Travs is not the offense, who scored 37 runs this series, but the pitching, which gave up 49 runs. Amarillo is somewhat of a launching pad, but still, for an organization that prides itself on pitching, it’s an unfamiliarly bad feeling.

On the bright side, Jonatan Clase continues to swing a hot bat; this week he had a homer, a double, and two triples. The home run was a game-tying three-run shot:

Next up: The Travs return home and face the Wichita Wind Surge.

Everett AquaSox

27-21, 2nd in Northwest League

The AquaSox remain stuck in second place despite winning their series against the Hillsboro Hops, 4-2, and annoyingly won’t have another chance to go after the league-leading Canadians directly during the regular season. But do not let this distract you from another fun series from our FrogBois! Things got off to a strong start with an 11-4 win where Harry Ford got the Sox on the board immediately with a home run in the first inning; Gabby Gonzalez and Hogan Windish each had three-hit days as well, each with a double. The Sox would lose the next two games, only scoring one run in each of the contests, making Reid VanScoter a hard-luck loser in a game where he went six innings and gave up just two runs while striking out seven.

However, the AquaSox rebounded to win the next three games straight. On Friday, Nick Davila pitched a solid six innings, giving up just two runs, and the bullpen (Troy Taylor, Sam Carlson, Jarod Bayless) combined for three scoreless innings with just one hit and six strikeouts. Meanwhile, the offense hung double-digit runs on the Hops, led by two doubles each by Harry Ford and Ben Ramirez. The offense kept it up on Saturday, not embarrassing themselves in front of big-league rehabber J.P. Crawford; Windish, Ramirez, and Ford all homered again en route to an 8-5 win. Ford’s homer was the biggest of all: a three-run walkoff shot.

The Sox held on for another close win on Sunday, taking the game 6-5 after scoring in the second thanks to a Ben Ramirez single that had pushed Walking Cabrera to third; he’d then score on a fielder’s choice.

Hitting hero:

The AquaSox lineup is a huge amount of fun, especially with Tyler Locklear back in the fold, but it cannot be denied that Harry Ford was On One this week. Sir Harry seemed to take exception to being bumped down to #2 in the Mariners system at several prospect ranking outlets and the Hops pitching staff bore the brunt of his wrath. In 22 ABs, Ford collected eight hits, including three doubles and two homers, while walking (6) more times than he struck out (5). Send him to Arkansas already to be reunited with his BFF Jonatan Clase!

Prime pitching:

After struggling over much of the year, the Everett bullpen is full of guys who seem to have started figuring it out, and maybe there’s no better example of that than Sam Carlson. After posting an ERA of 13.11 with 10 strikeouts in 11.2 innings of work in May, in August, Carlson has 11 strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work, and he’s issued just one walk in his six appearances.

Next up: Everett goes on the road to visit their in-state rivals (or one of them, at least), the Tri-City Dust Devils, an Angels affiliate.

Modesto Nuts

27-21, 2nd in California League North

The Nuts had an opportunity to make up ground this week on the league-leading Grizzlies, but wound up splitting the series with Fresno. The Nuts started strong with a 9-6 win, led by 2023 draftee Brock Rodden, who had a double and a triple, and a three-hit day from Michael Arroyo, while the bullpen picked up starter Riley Davis after he gave up four runs over five innings. The Nuts dropped the next game as the pitching staff gave up 12 runs, but rebounded in a big way in the third game, racking up 18 runs. Most of those runs came via the longball: Luis Suisbel, Gabe Moncada, and Lazaro Montes all homered, with Montes’s grand slam doing the majority of the damage, but catcher Freuddy Batista had three hits, a double and two triples. Tyler Cleveland had yet another excellent outing, going seven strong innings with seven hits and no runs, striking out five and walking none.

The Nuts dropped the next two games of the series, making a hard-luck loser of Darren Bowen despite a six-inning (two runs, one earned, six strikeouts) outing and also wasting a home run and double from Lázaro, who is quickly approaching one-name status, and dropping Saturday’s game after an uncharacteristically shaky outing from Shaddon Peavyhouse. The Nuts rebounded on Sunday, thanks to a strong outing from Riley Davis, giving up just two runs over 5.1 innings of work this turn, and Moncada and Montes teaming up again for a pair of home runs.

Hitting hero:

As much of a tear as Julio’s been on this week, Lazaro Montes has been even hotter. In 24 ABs over this series, Montes had 12 (!) hits: two doubles, and four home runs. He also walked three times while striking out just four, improving on his already strong K-BB numbers from Rookie League. He’s absolutely on another planet right now—we enjoy Nuts’ announcer Tim Quitadamo’s call for him, “I like Laz!”—and should be getting some national prospect buzz this week for his scorching-hot performance.

Next up: Modesto travels north to face the team just below them in the standings, the San Jose Giants.

ACL Mariners

30-24, 2nd in ACL West

The ACL Mariners have a better run differential but trail the ACL Dodgers by two games. They didn’t help their case by dropping a game on Tuesday against those same Dodgers, 8-4, but then followed that up with an 8-1 thumping of the Padres affiliate on Thursday. Three Mariners pitchers—2023 draftee Logan Evans, Kristian Cardozo, a Venezuelan who wears 34 in honor of King Félix, and Panamanian Abdiel Medina—combined to hold the Padres to one run on seven hits; Cardozo had the game’s only strikeouts, with two of them. Meanwhile, the Mariners’ young draftees put on a show, with Colt Emerson scoring three times with two hits including a double, and Tai Peete having a four-hit day with a double and a triple. The team had a tighter win on Tuesday against the Brewers affiliate with a 7-4 win; Ashton Izzi provided a solid four innings, giving up two runs on five hits, and 2023 draftee don’t call him Bob don’t call him Bob Daniel Ouderkirk twirled a gem of an inning, striking out two; Pedro Lemos da Costa shut things down in the ninth, striking out the side. The youth movement again provided a bulk of the offense, with fifth-rounder Aidan Smith tripling out of the leadoff spot and Emerson collecting another pair of hits; Charlie “all I do is hit bombs” Pagliarini hit a three-run homer.

Several of the 2023 draftees, especially the young ones, turned in super-impressive weeks, but Tai Peete, in particular, was white-hot this week, with seven hits in just 12 ABs including a double and a triple.

DSL Mariners

26-25, 5th in DSL South

The season is winding down for the Marineritos, who kicked off their final full week with a big 10-3 win over the Pirates affiliate before dropping a game by almost the same exact score the next day. They rebounded on Thursday, pulling out a 6-5 win in a game started by Harold Melenge, who allowed no runs on just four hits, striking out three and walking none over four innings. Jeter Martinez’s introduction to pro ball ended on a slightly anticlimactic note, as the Giants and Mariners tied 1-1 in a seven-inning game he started, pitching five innings and giving up just one run while striking out three. The week ended on a disappointing note, with the team dropping a game 5-2, mustering up just four hits.

Prime Pitching:

If this is indeed the end of Jeter Martinez’s first pro season he’s got a lot to crow about; he ranks 16th in the overstuffed DSL in strikeouts with the second-best WHIP and lowest average against, holding opponents to a paltry .109. Jeter is also top 10 in ERA in the DSL; he trails teammate Harold Melenge, who put together a strong season of his own, with the fourth-best ERA in the league, 1.42; he also pitched more innings than the three pitchers ahead of him on the list.

Hitting prospect name to know:

The pitching is really the highlight of the DSL Mariners team but one name to know is DH Carlos Gonzalez, repeating the DSL this year and showing improvement as a 19-year-old in the level. In August he’s hitting .276 with a double and a home run in just 29 ABs.