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Mariners Minor League Roundup: 8/29 - 9/4

Fun Fact: The Modesto Nuts have never lost a game

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
Ryan is in Bliss
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The end of the minor league baseball season is quickly approaching and while the prospect of “no more baseball” is assuredly a sad one, there’s still plenty to cover in this action-packed week down on the farm. There’s a whole lot of certified Good Vibes going on right now and I’m going to enjoy every last minute of it while I still can. I hope you will join me in doing the same.

Tacoma Rainiers

34-23, 2nd in Pacific Coast League West

The Rainiers took four of six from the Sugar Land Space Cowboys this week, a very bad Astros affiliate. With a few more weeks in the Triple-A season than the lower minors, the Rainiers will have some extra wiggle room to make up just a half game on the Las Vegas Aviators to secure their spot in the playoffs. They’ve been playing solid ball as of late and will have a real shot to do some damage if they make the playoffs, but they’ll need to continue their improved pitching and steady offense if they’re going to do so.

Ryan Bliss, the youngest player on the roster and only true “prospect” in Tacoma right now, had his best week in the Seattle organization to date. Launching two homers and a double en route to a six hit series, Bliss also drew four walks and stole four bases while playing outstanding shortstop defense. His numbers at Tacoma still aren’t all that flattering, but he’s undoubtedly adjusting to the level and is an incredibly fun player to watch. I’ll be very interested to watch his progress in the last few weeks of the season, hopefully culminating in a September hot streak.

Up-and-coming sleeper prospect Jarred Kelenic is in Rainier land on a rehab assignment this week and is off to a hot start. Going 5-12 with three walks and a stolen base, Jarred seems to have had little problem getting reacclimated to live pitching. They’ll likely give him a few more games to get things going and the trust in his foot back, but at the rate he’s currently trending at, he should be back in the big leagues in no time. If he can return to pre-injury levels of production, an already potent offensive attack should have little trouble getting the job done on a nightly basis.

Next up: Tacoma takes on a lowly Salt Lake team

Arkansas Travelers

24-32, 4th in Texas League North

Having been on a big time skid since losing their rotation to promotion, the Travelers won the toilet bowl this week and took five of six from the bottom feeding Tulsa Drillers this week. With some impressive individual performances and some better pitching performances of late, the Travs will look to build on a successful series as they gear up for the playoffs. They’re definitely limping into the finish line in a big way, but anything can happen in a short series and perhaps some late season additions could fuel a successful playoff run.

Top prospect Tyler Locklear had a successful week against Tulsa this week, swatting his first Double-A homer alongside a pair of doubles. His total hits were paired with four walks and just two strikeouts, a testament to just how complete of a hitter Locklear is. He is the complete offensive package and exactly how you would draw up a first base prospect. Expect Locklear to be in competition for a role on the 2024 team come opening day. He might just be that good. Continually consistent Spencer Packard also had a nice showing this week, accumulating five hits and six walks in the six game set. He’s another guy that has a shot to factor into the 2024 roster, albeit in a much more crowded position group. He’s almost certainly going to start next year in Tacoma and follow a similar track to Cade Marlowe did this year, but he’s got a much more sound offensive profile and lacks Marlowe’s defensive abilities and baserunning. Yet another piece of the puzzle for Jerry and Justin to sort out.

For those curious regarding Prelander Berroa’s omission from the big league roster when it came time for September call ups, I wish I could give a better reason than an “idk” but that’s about as good as I’ve got. He’s given up one earned run in the past 2+ weeks and is striking out just about everyone he faces. The walks really aren’t that big of a problem either, with a very palatable four over his last eight outings. His stuff has always been there, he’s already on the 40 man roster, and he’s got a pretty ridiculous ceiling as a leverage reliever. Why they seem so hesitant to use him on the big league roster, I haven’t a clue. He’s been ready.

Next up: The Travs will look to continue their winning ways against the league leading Amarillo Sod Poodles.

Everett AquaSox

37-24, 1st in Northwest League

Merry Clinchmas, AquaSox! Being just one game away from securing their spot in the championship series entering a Monday night bout with the Emeralds, the Frogs played a gutsy game on the back of their ace Reid VanScoter. Spinning an absolute gem when it mattered most, VanScoter set a career high with 12 K’s and just one run allowed across 6.2 IP. Unfortunately, the Frogs couldn’t muster up any offense trailed 1-0 entering the eighth. Then, with two outs and one on, Ben Ramirez clobbered a ball to dead center field and gave them a decisive 2-1 lead entering the home ninth. The rest is history.

Congrats again to all the AquaSox players, staff, and fans. They’ve had a fantastic season and are a whole lot of fun to watch. With outstanding leadership coming from their backstop Harry Ford, the young phenoms from Modesto in Cole Young and Gabriel Gonzalez, and a bunch of grinders that have carved out fantastic seasons this year, I am thrilled they were able to get a shot at the title and think they have a real shot against a Vancouver team that isn’t playing it’s best ball right now. If you’re able to watch in any capacity, I can’t recommend it enough.

On the performance side of things, Cole Young emerged from his mini slump and collected 12 hits over the last seven games, one of which went for a homer. Harry Ford also had a nice week, collecting seven hits in five games. Hogan Windish, the true thumper of the lineup now that Tyler Locklear is in Arkansas, also had 7 hits. Headlined by a game that saw him miss the cycle by a mere single, Windish’s performance is an extension of what he’s done all year and looks to be quite the steal out of UNC Greensboro. With a season OPS sitting at .870, he is sure to factor into the Arkansas roster next season and could be a potential bat for the big league ball club in a few years.

Reid VanScoter already got some love, but he really deserves more of it for his performance to clinch. It was about as good as I’ve seen him pitch in his fantastic start of his career, carving up hitters at will. He’ll start next year in Arkansas and should have the ability to start games at the big league level. The obvious choice for the Mariners’ MiLB pitcher of the year, I expect VanScoter to enter next year as a legitimate pitching prospect with legitimate 2024 big league potential. How likely that is would depend on many factors, but it’s not an impossibility by any means. Regardless of how things go moving forward, he’s had an undeniably great season and deserves any and all praise coming his way.

Next up:

Despite the season already fully decided, five games remain against the Emeralds until the final clash with the Vancouver Canadians.

Modesto Nuts

39-21, 2nd in California League North

Modesto is on an absolutely torrid stretch as of late, closing out yet another sweep against an Inland Empire team that is topping the Cal League South. After walking it off with a 7 run tenth inning that was punctuated by Luis Suisbel’s grand slam, Modesto has increased their win streak to 13 games and are showing no signs of slowing down. The pitching is much improved, the hitting is firing on all cylinders, and the vibes are at an all time high. While the hitting didn’t live up to their typically otherworldly levels, their primary contributors continued to show well and did enough to get the job done. Things are shaping up for an absolutely electric final week of baseball in which the Nuts will take on the Fresno Grizzlies, the team directly ahead of them in the playoff race. With just one game separating the two teams for the final playoff spot, the Nuts will have to take care of business on the road to make their playoff aspirations a reality.

It was a fairly balanced offensive attack from the Nuts this week, getting steady contribution from up and down the lineup. Lazaro Montes had two doubles on his way to five hits while Colt Emerson tallied six base knocks. With Emerson consistently hitting the ball hard and showing an excellent ability to barrel the ball, the Mariners may have a really special talent to add to their plethora of young infielders making their way through the minors. Recent draftee RJ Schreck had seven hits, Brock Rodden had six hits, and the catching tandem of Tatem Levins and Freuddy Batista had three hits each. Not necessarily the hot streak that saw them tally 20 runs, but steady nonetheless.

The pitching was consistently excellent throughout the series, surrendering no more than four runs in any of the six games. Darren Bowen had his best outing of his professional career this week, tossing six innings without allowing an earned run and striking out eight. Recent draftee Ryan Hawks hurled four perfect innings with six strikeouts and the bullpen remained strong. A strong staff has been a boon for Modesto’s staff that was once a major liability earlier this year and has directly correlated with the uptick in their winning ways. With a strong Fresno lineup coming to town, they’ll need them to continue their hot streak and shut them down. Take four of six from the Grizzlies and you punch your ticket to the playoffs. Split or worse, your season is over. It’s must see TV.