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).
A West Virginia Power loss denied us an organizational sweep on Sunday, but it was still one of the more impressive days on the farm of the year. We had team-wide outbursts and single-handed displays of excellence, with the lone loss coming at the system’s lowest level.
West Virginia Power (22-20) T-boned by the Greenville Drive (16-26), 8-4
When your 1-2-3 hitters go 0-for-13 with a walk, you’ll have a tough time scoring no matter what the back of your order does. Jarred Kelenic remains one of the best hitters in the Sally League, but he had just his fifth game of the year where he failed to reach base and extended his XBH drought to nine games. All those struggles have him down to a mere 161 wRC+ and .304/.385/.513 line, but it’s fair to wonder if Kelenic’s penchant for putting the ball on the ground is limiting his success. Still, his status as the most talented makes him an easy target for scrutiny – he’s the only Power hitter with over 100 PAs and a >.800 OPS (or >.755, for that matter). Yesterday Onil Peña delivered another dinger, showing the quality pop he’s displayed much of the year, but this lineup misses Julio Rodriguez.
After a brilliant start to the year from Clay Chandler, the elder statesman of the Power got rocked, yielding all eight runs in just 3.2 IP. The bullpen was, as they have been much of the year, stalwart, with Devin Sweet racking up a trio of K’s and no walks using his fastball-changeup combo to great effect.
He put it on target all over the zone, to both handed hitters, and is doing his damndest to make himself seen as an undrafted free agent.
Modesto Nuts (20-24) crack the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (26-18), 2-0
Did I include multiple Devin Sweet gifs out of guilt for my inability to offer you Logan Gilbert video? Scientists may never know, but the Dodgers High-A affiliate is strangely bereft of MiLB.TV coverage. That leaves us with only box scores to scour and marvel at for yesterday’s brilliant start by Logan Gilbert. While the move from Low-A to High-A isn’t typically as steep as High-A to Double-A, or Double-A to Triple-A, Gilbert has had to grapple with both steeper competition and a vastly more hitter-friendly league. The Cal League has stymied many a pitching prospect, but last night Gilbert looked every bit the Top-100 prospect he will undoubtedly be deemed by midseason. 7.0 IP, 11 K, 0 BB, 0 R and just 2 hits allowed. It took Gilbert just 67 pitches to go his first six frames, facing the minimum in the process with the help of Cal Raleigh throwing out a would-be base-stealer. A one-out Joe Rizzo error and a single in the 7th was the only threat Gilbert faced, but he bore down for his 11th strikeout of the night and a harmless inning-ending flyout.
After the game, Nuts pitching coach Rob Marcello said it was especially gratifying to see Gilbert succeed in this start after placing a heavy emphasis on mixing all four of his pitches for strikes in any count during the week.
“It didn’t matter what [pitch] was called for. We weren’t trying to set guys up or anything. It was all about strikes. To that end, we’re working hard on developing that fourth pitch for him. That changeup could be a secret weapon and I think you’ll see more of it to the point where he’s a legitimate four-pitch pitcher.”
Scouts have mentioned Gilbert as a great candidate to move rapidly due to the majors now that the concerns of his diminished velocity from overuse his final year of college have abated. Though the Mariners have little reason to be quite as aggressive as the Angels have been with Griffin Canning, it’s a similar pathway to a 2020 debut that the M’s could put Gilbert on if he continues this precocious domination.
Despite his error, Joe Rizzo had another good day at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a double. Luis Liberato matched his line, and Joey Gerber shut the door after Gilbert with two shutout innings and three strikeouts of his own. Any time Gilbert starts is legitimately must-watch at this point (if, of course, watching is possible), and with the potential battery of the future in Cal Raleigh behind the dish, it’s a surprisingly good time to see the Nuts.
Arkansas Travelers (26-15) stun the Tulsa Drillers (21-21), 8-3
Sitting squarely in the Anthony Misiewicz category of Mariners pitching prospects, Nabil Crismatt is interesting by virtue of his results and his age, despite being tough to love from a scouting perspective. The soft-tossing righty has had great success in his second real taste of AA. Despite looking like a grungy cherubim, at 24-years-old he’s a fairly appropriate age for the level, getting better results in Arkansas after a rough beginning in Tacoma. Yesterday Crismatt had a thoroughly 2019 baseball line, with all three runs he allowed in 7.0 IP coming on a pair of homers. He was sharp in all other facets, with 8 Ks and not a single free pass. That start gave the Travs the opportunity they needed to turn a nail-biter into a bit of a laugher.
Down 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the 9th despite a Logan Taylor dinger, the Travelers had runners on 2nd and 3rd. Evan White pinch-hit for Aaron Knapp, who Tulsa greeted with an intentional walk to load the bases. As the Tulsa announcers recounted a similar situation in last year’s Texas League playoffs where Walton struck out, Walton got his revenge.
Both Jake Fraley and Nick Zammarelli scored, and another run would cross on a short-hop error. With a 5-3 lead, Kyle Lewis put the game out of reach for good, effortlessly clubbing a an RBI double on a meager offspeed pitch.
Just for kicks, after another error, Fraley added a line drive RBI single of his own that appeared to transform into a UFO mid-flight. A comeback win with a lot of help is a win all the same.
Tacoma Rainiers (21-23) drop like a whole bag of hammers on the Reno Aces (16-27), 18-9
What do you get when you mix a hitter’s haven with the new MLB baseballs that AAA is using this year? A lot of games like today, or so you’d think. The Aces played their part, clubbing five homers – four off starter Jon Niese and a final one off Chasen Bradford in the 9th. Five dingers alone is enough to get a win most nights, even in the PCL, but the tricksy Rainiers countered with the only thing better (debatably): hittin ‘em where they ain’t. Tacoma put up 18 runs without a SINGLE longball. A masterclass in cluster luck, the Rainiers clubbed three of their four doubles with the bases loaded or two runners on, as every position player recorded at least one hit and every starter reached base at least twice.
Kyle Seager stretched the game towards laugher territory with this familiar-looking bases-loaded double as part of an eight-run fifth inning.
The Rainiers have great team speed, and it was apparent as Shed Long, Braden Bishop, and Ian Miller scored and took extra bases all day long. Frankly, every player besides Seager boasts average or better wheels, and those 22 hits did all the more damage because of it.
It’s a pretty decent day in the system for pitchers. While there’s no true night game, you can get an early start with some HD baseball in Reno and see Anthony Misiewicz attempt to keep the ball in the yard in Reno (or, more probably, watch the Rainiers run all over the place and see Kyle Seager progress). Ryne Inman isn’t on prospect lists yet but a week after his 23rd birthday he’s been mowing down Sally League opposition and Greenville also has some of the best quality video in the low minors. The real treat of the day is another Justin Dunn outing, as Juice tries to match Logan Gilbert’s outing with another gem of his own. If you have the means, pull it up on mute as the M’s game gets underway right about the same time and flip between the one that brings you the most joy.
Tacoma at Reno, 11:05 AM PT (LHP Anthony Misiewicz)
West Virginia at Greenville: 4:05 PM PT (RHP Ryne Inman)
Arkansas vs. Northwest Arkansas, 5:10 PM PT (RHP Justin Dunn)
Modesto – OFF DAY