Your tri-weekly minor league highlights roundup
The Mariners farm is both more exciting and more functional than it’s been in a long time, which means it’s worth paying attention to how the prospects are performing down at the lower levels of the organization. In addition to our stalwart State of the Farm weekly roundup that takes a longer view on the farm, we’ll have minor league roundups thrice a week or so to share some highlights, gifs, and notes in our Midshipmen’s Log (it’s a baby sailor, get it? **waits patiently for ‘ba dum tiss’ on the drums** yeah yeah).
It was a disappointing day for the big club but a good day to be a Mariners minor leaguer, with some strong pitching performances sprinkled across the system, along with some big power flashing.
West Virginia Power (28-28) send home the Asheville Tourists (24-32), 5-4
LHP Steven Moyers posted the longest start of his career, and the longest start by any Power pitcher this season, hurling 7.2 innings for his seventh quality start. After giving up a run each in the first two frames, Moyers buckled down and cruised through the Tourists lineup, at one time retiring twelve batters in a row. 3B Bobby Honeyman continued to heat up with a two-run single to tie the game in the fifth, and 1B Onil Pena had two big hits: a sac fly in the fifth to put the Power up 3-2, and then an insurance run-scoring single in the seventh. Moyers got into a bit of a scrape late in the game and was relieved by RHP David Ellingson, who pitched 1.1 innings of no-hit, two-strikeout ball to secure the save for the Power.
Arkansas Travelers (35-19) bury the Tulsa Drillers (29-26), 10-3
Tulsa may be second in the Texas League by winning percentage, but the gap that separates the two team is evident (.527 to the Travs’ .648) whenever the two face off; Arkansas is simply a better team. Evan White kicked off the scoring in the first with a solo HR off journeyman knuckleballer J.D. Martin:
That puppy is 413 feet to the deepest part of center field in a pitcher’s park. White thought it was going to be a double off the wall and ran hard around the bases; it took him halfway to third to slow down to a home run trot. The Drillers came back with a three-run second, taking advantage of some sloppy Arkansas defensive miscues, but Jake Fraley took advantage of a Drillers less-than-stellar defensive play of his own and scored two on a pop-up shallow fly to left field. The Travs put the rout on in the seventh, scoring five additional runs off a pair of hapless Drillers relievers to lock away the win.
Justin Dunn got the start and went five innings, giving up three runs (none earned), walking two, and striking out seven. He threw 60 of his 90 pitches for strikes, and while you’d like to see some more efficiency, he was able to win some of the longer at-bats, like this 9-pitch at-bat with Jared Walker:
Dunn has 61 strikeouts, and while that’s only good for fourth in the Texas League, he’s done it in significantly fewer innings that his fellow prospects (the leader, Williams Perez, has 69, but he’s pitched 67 innings to Dunn’s 48). Zac Grotz, who has been a little uneven lately, had a nice rebound outing in relief in which he struck out four over two innings, and Matt Tenuta and Dan Altavilla finished off Tulsa with two innings and three strikeouts among them. With this win, the Travs cut their magic number to single-digits with 9 wins needed to secure a first-half championship.
Tacoma Rainiers (29-29) bitten by the El Paso Chihuahuas (36-21), 5-3
A rare non-blowout game in El Paso unfortunately had Tacoma coming up on the losing side. Tyler Cloyd ran into trouble in the fifth and David McKay was unable to bail him out, and the Rainiers couldn’t close the gap down the stretch despite scoreless innings from Gerson Bautista and Ryan Garton. The Rainiers played their second straight game without offense-driver Braden Bishop, who was absent from the lineup for Saturday’s drubbing (24-4, ouch) and in Seattle’s lineup today, and the normally-hot Ian Miller went 0-for-4. The Rainiers were able to collect 9 hits, but weren’t able to string enough together to make anything happen, although newest Rainier Jaycob Brugman had two hits, including a HR, as did Kristopher Negron. 18-year-old Robert Perez had another hit and is hitting .353 in his first exposure to stateside ball, which will be a fun story for him to tell when he eventually rejoins his teammates in the AZL or West Virginia or Everett.
Modesto Nuts (25-32) smoke the Visalia Rawhide (37-15), 4-2
The Nuts held tough against the kings of the Cal League, keeping a pesky Rawhide offense off the board until the 8th inning. RHP Ian McKinney had one of his better starts for Modesto, going six innings and giving up seven hits and two walks, but avoiding damage. Collin Kober wobbled a little in relief, giving up two runs in two innings but striking out three, and fireballer Joey Gerber came in to shut the door.
Offensively, the Nuts had better at-bats than they have recently, working a total of seven walks off two Visalia pitchers, including two bases-loaded walks, the first to Cal Raleigh and the second a four-pitch walk to Jarred Kelenic. The four-pitch walk to Kelenic makes sense if you look at what he did in the third:
Per Keaton Gillogly, this was 103 mph off the bat, cranked to one of the deepest parts of the park. It’s important to note that Modesto’s John Thurman Field, unlike many of the other Cal League ballparks, isn’t particularly hitter-friendly; in fact, Modesto has the highest rate of HR suppression in the league—and not just the Cal League, but all of High-A.
Tacoma is off today, but will start a seven-game homestand against the Memphis RedBirds and Nashville Sounds on Tuesday. It’s a great time to get down to Tacoma if you’re able, as the days get more beautiful and the firepits at Cheney beckon for the cooler evenings. Modesto is also off, denying us the joy of watching Jarred Kelenic mash some more taters, but freeing us up to watch the draft.
West Virginia at Hickory, 3:30 PT (RHP Deivy Florido)
Tusla at Arkansas, 5:05 PT (LHP Ricardo Sánchez)