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Mariners Minor League Roundup: August 1-6

Harry Ford and Brian O’Keefe have big weeks, the 2023 draftees kick off their pro careers, and the Nuts are hot

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
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Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

As August dawns down on the farm, there’s been some movement with promotions and new players. The most exciting thing for MiLB TV watchers is the chance to see slugger Lazaro Montes on a nightly basis with Modesto; he’ll join a Modesto squad that’s gotten some other recent offensive additions with 2023 draftees 3B Ben Williamson, SS Brock Rodden, and OF Jared Sundstrom.

  • To the ACL (Rookie): LHP Brandyn Garcia, SS Cole Emerson, RHP German Fajardo, RHP Ryan Hawks, RHP Ernie Day, SS Tai Peete
  • To Modesto (Single-A): 3B Luis Suisbel, OF Lazaro Montes, OF RJ Schreck
  • To Everett (High-A): OF Walking Cabrera
  • To Arkansas (Double-A): INF Connor Hoover, RHP Jimmy Joyce
  • To Triple-A Tacoma: INF Ryan Bliss

And while not a promotion, 1B/OF Tyler Locklear is back with the Everett AquaSox after missing most of this season after having his forearm broken by a wild pitch.

Congratulations to some Players of the Week winners down on the farm: Brian O’Keefe in Triple-A, and Harry Ford in High-A.

Tacoma Rainiers

19-14, 2nd in Pacific League West

Watch out, y’all, the Rainiers are getting hot. They trail the Vegas Aviators by just one game after winning a series against the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, in Texas, 4-2, and have an exciting new player in Ryan Bliss, part of the return in the Paul Sewald trade. Bliss had his best day as part of the Mariners organization in Sunday’s series finale, with a double and a triple out of the two-hole. He only had one single in his previous four games with Tacoma, but he also walked (three times) almost as much as he struck out (four times), and stole three bases.

But if you’re wondering who the next man up out of Tacoma might be, it’s hard to see Sam Haggerty not getting a shot again soon. After a lengthy injury recovery and some early struggles at the plate, the Swaggy Ham has been on a tear of late, and that continued against Sugar Land this week, where he collected eight hits over the series, including two doubles, a triple, and a homer, with as many walks as he had strikeouts (5). He also nabbed four stolen bases.

Even with all this power output, though, the most impressive offensive effort this week for the Rainiers—and in fact, the entire PCL, as he nabbed Player of the Week honors—belongs to catcher Brian O’Keefe. The power in O’Keefe’s bat was thumping this week as he recorded 10 hits: five of them doubles and three home runs, with 12 RBI over the series.

Next up: Oklahoma City (Dodgers) comes in to Tacoma. Get out to R Yard if you want to see Ryan Bliss and co. in action!

Arkansas Travelers

15-17, 3rd in Texas League North

Yikes! After cruising through the Texas League all season like a hot knife through honey butter, the swath of promotions and lack of reinforcements has finally caught up with the Travs, who tumbled to third in the league this week after a rare six-game sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Missions. The Travs let a winnable game slip by on Tuesday in the series opener despite a strong performance from the recently-promoted Jimmy Joyce, as the bullpen sagged. They then dropped the second game of the series by one run, despite a relatively strong start from Emerson Hancock (3 ER over 5 IP with 7 strikeouts). Things continued to be suboptimal for the Travs, who are struggling big time with rotation health and consistency, but their offense—which has been able to prop up a struggling pitching staff at times—was fairly flat this week. Jonatan Clase had a rough start to August after scuffling through much of July, and the rest of the offense mostly scuffled behind him. Arkansas is really feeling the departure of Bash Brother Robbie Tenerowicz; hopefully some more help is on the way from Everett soon.

Even while the rest of the offense struggled, Spencer Packard continued to hit the ball in memorium after the departure of his bash brother Robbie Tenerowicz. Unfortunately, the majority of Packard’s hits this week were singles, with the exception of a two-run home run on Sunday that sadly was too little, too late.

If there’s any good to pull form this series, it will be found in the back end of the Trav’s bullpen. Jorge Benitez and Prelander Berroa have both been incredible all year for Arkansas and continued their excellence this week, combining to strikeout 9 over 5.1 innings of scoreless ball. The Travelers have relied heavily on their bullpen all year and the group has shown considerable resilience after being ravaged by major league promotions. Should the big league club need reinforcements towards the end of the year, there’s still plenty to get excited about in the Arkansas ‘pen.

Next up: The Travs head on the road to Midland, the A’s affiliate, to try to get back on track.

Everett AquaSox

20-16, 2nd in Northwest League

With another successful 4-2 series win over the Spokane Indians this week, the Frogs currently hold the final playoff spot in the ever competitive Northwest League, a 6-team league that only sends two teams to the playoffs each year. With fearsome slugger Tyler Locklear returning from injury this weekend, Everett’s squad gains some serious thump to a lineup that has been a bit top heavy at times. There’s a shot some late season promotions can help them out for their playoff push, but in all likelihood the Frogs are rolling with what they’ve got for the rest of the season and have to find a way to continue winning ball games.

Top prospect Cole Young has been putting on a clinic at Everett ever since he arrived and is showing no signs of slowing down. After a 7-21 week at the plate with 7 walks and 5 strikeouts, Young has maintained an OPS north of 1.000 since his Hi-A debut. It’s really impressive stuff from the now 20 year old shortstop. Fellow top prospect Gabriel Gonzalez had a tough week after missing last week with an assumed Visa issue. After lighting the world on fire for the first several series in Everett, Gonzalez collected just 3 hits against Spokane and struck out 12 times. Still just 19, Gonzalez has shown an advanced hit tool that hasn’t shown much cause for concern up to this point. I’d take this more as a bump in the road than something to truly panic about. Finally, Harry Ford had an excellent week at the plate, going 7-17 with 5 walks and some signs of considerable power en route to winning Player of the Week honors. Ford has been the foundation of the Everett squad and will continue to do so as long as they’ve got a shot at the title.

Reid VanScoter has been Everett’s ace all year long and continued to shove this week, throwing six innings of one run ball and striking out seven along the way. Now with a season ERA of 3.22, the 2022 5th rounder out of Coastal Carolina is proving to be the top lefty option in the entire minor league system. He’s not going to blow you away with stuff, but crafty lefties have had a special place in the Seattle Mariner’s history and VanScoter’s got a shot to add to it.

Up next:

Everett will clash with a Eugene team that is right behind them in the standings, looking to stave them off and help secure a bid at the last playoff spot.

Modesto Nuts

20-16, 2nd in California League North

The Nuts are on an absolute tear as of late, going 10-2 on their latest homestand and just missing a six game sweep this week with a late blown save. Regardless, a 5-1 week against a solid Padres affiliate is nothing to scoff at. With the 2023 draftees beginning to settle into their new squads, the already loaded Nuts roster got a boost this week with both Luis Suisbel and Lazaro Montes getting promoted to full-season ball. From top to bottom, there isn’t a more complete lineup in the system. Frankly, this may be the deepest lineup I’ve seen a Seattle affiliate have in years. The 2019 Travelers, featuring Evan White, Donovan Walton, Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, and Cal Raleigh at various stages of the year provided excellent results, but I think the Nuts lineup has a real shot to edge them out. We’re early in the potential super team era for the Nuts, but it promises to be a thrilling last stretch of the season.

There was plenty of offense throughout the lineup, with perhaps the top offensive performer this week being 2023 fifth-rounder Brock Rodden. Consistently starting at second base in a loaded infield, Rodden went 8-19 with a double, triple, and homer. An analytics darling coming out of Wichita State, Rodden has led the pack amongst the collegiate draftees thus far. He’s been a sparkplug atop the Modesto lineup.

The biggest revelation for the Nuts may be the vastly improved pitching staff. After allowing just five runs last week, Nuts starters upped the ante and allowed just four this week. Marcelo Perez continues to impress and has been the ace of the staff thus far, but both Tyler Cleveland and Michael Morales have been on long runs of sustained success. With the bullpen (mostly) clicking on all cylinders, this Nuts team is going to be a real tough out down the stretch. They’ll have to catch a red hot Fresno team, but don’t count them out just yet.

Next up: Modesto takes on the lowly Stockton Ports and will look to continue their hot streak against an inferior A’s affiliate.

Injury Note: 2nd rounder Ben Williamson was hit with a fastball on the wrist in Sunday’s game and was removed. He did walk to first base and may have been removed for further assessment, but it was a pretty serious shot. Fingers crossed it doesn’t wind up derailing the start to his bright future.

ACL Mariners

25-20, 2nd in ACL West

The Mariners and Dodgers affiliates both have 25 wins, but the Mariners have played two more games (and lost both), so they technically have a worse record than the Dodgers squad.

This week featured the debuts of both Colt Emerson and Tai Peete, two of the Mariners three first rounders from this year’s draft. While Peete had a great debut in his own right, (A 1-3 day with an RBI and BB) it was Emerson who stole the show. Finishing 3-4 with 4 RBI, Emerson launched an impressive opposite field home run in his first pro AB. If Emerson is consistently getting to this type of in-game power, there’s some absolutely tremendous upside in this selection. He’s already proven he has an advanced feel to hit against premium competition and displays excellent off the field traits that are sure to aid on the tumultuous path through the minor leagues. The floor was always thought to be quite high with Emerson, but perhaps the ceiling can match it for the freshly turned 18 year old.

Later round picks Charlie Pagliarini and Caleb Cali as well as UDFA Jarrod Belbin have all been playing exceptionally well to start their professional careers, with Cali in particular off to a hot start. The 16th rounder out of Arkansas possesses some tremendous raw power and has a three outcome type profile moving forward. He’ll need to continue to draw walks at a healthy rate, but the former Razorback performed well in the SEC and may prove to be a nice value pick in the latter half of the draft.

Pitching wise, Walter Ford continued to show well with a shutdown outing of four innings while Adrian Quintana continues to dominate in his brief outings. Ashton Izzi ran into the buzzsaw that is the ACL Brewers and got rocked but has shown promise outside of this major hiccup.

DSL Mariners

22-21, 5th in DSL South

After nothing but pure dominance out of staff ace Jeter Martinez, the top Mexican signee of last year’s international class has scuffled in his last two outings, having a clunker against the Phillies’ team in a game that was suspended due to weather. While the flashes of dominance are of far more importance at this stage in a career, it’s never fun to see your pitcher get shelled. I wouldn’t put too much concern into a few bad starts for a 17 year old starter in his first professional season. It’s a big adjustment period and he’s shown tremendously.

The lineup is largely lackluster with the exception of Panamanian slugger Carlos Gonzalez. A catcher out of the 2022 international class, Gonzalez has maintained well above average offensive output for a team desperate for offense. There’s some swing and miss in the profile, but expect Gonzalez to get a shot stateside next season. Power hitting catchers don’t grow on trees.