How’s it going everyone? June is my favorite month of the year for many reasons, spring is (supposed to be) over and summer has begun. Baseball is now in full swing and you could be seeing some future stars early, case in point the Mariners and Nick Franklin. Regardless of these two things, the best part about June is the annual rule four, first-year player draft. Over the last few years the Seattle Mariners have been able to do something many teams hope for; successfully draft talent in the first round, including five baseball America top 100 prospects. Of the five, four of them (Mike Zunino, Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and Dustin Ackley) were at one point top 50 prospects (with Hultzen being the lowest at #28) and the other one, Franklin, now plays in Seattle. Thursday evening the Seattle Mariners chose DJ Peterson (21, @godj33), corner infielder from the University of New Mexico and the most accomplished college hitter in the draft with the 12th pick overall. A lot of things are going to be said and speculated regarding the choice of Peterson, who was most definitely not drafted because of need. However depending on how fast the Mariners are able to sign Peterson, he will probably be playing in Everett to finish off this year, and the Arizona fall league. I would not be surprised to see him skip the High Desert and Clinton, and start in Jackson next year.
Speaking of Clinton, the Lumber Kings have been on a rather rough skid going 3-7 in their last 10 games. Despite that, it was recently announced that the Lumber Kings will have five players represented in the class A Midwestern League All-Star game. Dario Pizzano (22, @DarioPizzano25 ), was named the only starter and is batting a very impressive .301 and currently leads the team in hits with 55, games played (52) , runs scored (31), and runs batted in (31). The expectations for someone drafted in 15th round are not very high, but Pizzano, who was selected there in 2012 is impressing Mariners management and has been arguably the best everyday player on the team. Behind the dish for the Lumber Kings Tyler Marlette (20, @TMarlette) has continued to improve. Marlett has an extremely impressive line on the season. In the 33 games he has played is hitting (.327/.392/.512) and has successfully reached base in all but three of the games he has played. Despite missing two weeks in May with an injury, Jabari Henry (22, @bari14) is the third and final position player named to the All-Star team. Henry is currently batting .322 and has the highest on-base percentage on the team at .422. Last year in rookie ball, in 58 games Henry only hit eight home runs. So far this year, in 35, he has five home runs, so look for his power to build with his confidence.
A common theme when looking at the Seattle Mariners, and all of their affiliates is that each seems to have a very impressive one-two punch when it comes to starting pitching. The most surprising this year has been the success of 20-year-old South African Dylan Unsworth (@UnsworthDylan). After signing at age 17, Unsworth has done nothing but improve over the last four years. So far this year he has put up one of the most impressive lines I have ever seen from a pitcher. On the season Unsworth is currently 4-1 (with his only loss coming Wednesday evening), and not only leads Clinton in lowest ERA, but he actually has the lowest ERA of any Mariners farmhand at 2.42. Now it’s about to get really impressive; in 62 innings pitched, Unsworth has struck out 44, allowed 2 (TWO!) home runs, and only given up 2 (TWO!) walks. Here’s the crazy thing, this is not a fluke. As a 17-year-old, Unsworth put up almost identical numbers in rookie ball (50.1 IP, 44K, 1 (ONE) BB). The other pitching sensation for Clinton, and their final representative for the All-Star game is 2012 third round draft pick, left-hander Tyler Pike (19, @tpike10). Pike has absolutely dazzled as a 19-year-old. With a 4-3 record and a very impressive 2.55 ERA, Pike has absolutely dominated right-handed batters only allowing them to hit .183 (.198 combined) and at one point Pike went 18.1 consecutive innings without giving up an earned run. Overall, many of the Lumber Kings players have been able to make significant individual strides, this second half will be very fun to watch as players will be in full swing of the season.
The High Desert Mavericks of the California league are 7-4 over the last 11 games and have been putting up some very nice offense of numbers. Ji Man Choi (22), a name I am sure you’re familiar with if you have seen any of my previous posts earned himself a spot on the California/Carolina All-Star game. Unfortunately he’s going to be ineligible, because he earned himself a promotion to AA Jackson earlier this week. His season stats were unbelievably impressive. He hit .339 and had a double every other game (24/48), 40 RBI and 8 HRs. Two other players are headed to the All-Star game; Chris Taylor (22) leads the Mavericks in games played (57), runs scored (54), hits (76), triples (5), total bases (120) and walks (40). Taylor is next in line for a promotion, and with him and Brad Miller, the Mariners are looking very solid for the future at shortstop. In the outfield, 6 foot 5 Canadian Jabari Blash (23, @JabarBlash) is hitting .284 with 39 RBI and nine stolen bases in 42 games. The most impressive stat from Blash is his .649 slugging percentage, which leads the California league. His 13 home runs are tied for third, and he only projects to get better! As many people know, the California league is all about offensive numbers and these should be taken with a grain of salt, but all of the previously mentioned players definitely project well for the Mariners future.
Going across the country, to Jackson Tennessee, you will find the Jackson Generals, the AA team and my favorite affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. The players who make it to Jackson will have their first real taste of adversity. Adversity is a funny thing when it comes to baseball, sometimes players have streaks of good luck and bad luck, but it is how these players handle these situations that management focuses on at this level. So far this season, the Seattle Mariners number one prospect, 20-year-old fireballer Taijuan Walker (@tai_Walker) has had quite a bit of adversity. In his 10 starts, he has given up more than two runs in only two games; unfortunately he hasn’t been the beneficiary of any run support. Walker is 3-6 on the season but has a very impressive 2.67 ERA. His command hasn’t been as impressive as last year, as he has just a 2 to 1 k/bb ratio, but his off-speed stuff has improved. It should be noted that last week, the Seattle Mariners designated for assignment Francisco Martinez, the key prospect Seattle received in return for Doug Fister from Detroit. Martinez never made it above the AA level and was struggling this year (in full circle, Detroit claimed him). One of the remaining players the Mariners received in the trade is right-hander Chance Ruffin (24, @chanceruff18). Ruffin, who had a brief call up in 2011 as a reliever has been reevaluated and is actually doing pretty well as a starting pitcher for the Generals. With a 2-2 record, a 3.12 ERA, and almost a 4:1 K:BB ratio, hopefully Chance is able to continue improving and do something for the Mariners organization as that trade was arguably the worst Seattle has made in the last five years. Offensively, the Generals have a very underrated pair of outfielders. James Jones (24) has had a very respectable first half of the season. Jones is a leading the team in average (.274) runs (27) RBIs (26) and stolen bases with 14. Julio Morban (21, @ julio_morban) who should be one of the Mariners top 10 prospects by the end of the year is hitting .324 in 39 games this season and playing superb defense. Unfortunately, he was hampered by an extended stint on the disabled list in May and had some serious issues with strikeouts (4:1 K/BB ratio).
Our last stop on the prospect report is the Tacoma Rainiers. You may be wondering why the section on the Jackson Generals was so small. Partially it’s because there hasn’t been too much to talk about, but mainly it’s because two players have been promoted from there to Tacoma in the last few weeks. Abraham Almonte (23) who hit for the cycle earlier this year in Jackson was promoted to Tacoma in mid May. Mariners scouts and people in the organization are absolutely raving about Abraham’s physical abilities, with speed compared to Mike Trout, it’s hard not to be impressed. After 20 games with the Rainiers, Almonte has a .429/.508/.500 line. The Mariners, who were in such desperate need of outfielders in the off-season that they signed 41-year-old Raul Ibanez, underachiever Jason Bay and injury prone Michael Morse actually look to have one of the better outfield farms in the major leagues. Stefen Romero (24, @stefson) the minor league player of the year for the Mariners is continuing to impress in only his second year in the system. Romero has a .301/.358/.436 line on the season and has been really impressive in the outfield. Throughout 60 games this season, shortstop has been by far the most impressive position. You already know about how well Nick Franklin was playing (and is currently playing in Seattle), but Brad Miller (23, @sergiomillar), who recently earned a promotion from Jackson, is doing just as well. In 12 games he is hitting .356/.424/.588 and has two home runs with 13 RBIs. Hopefully Miller is able to continue this pace, and if he is able to don’t be surprised to see him in Seattle later in the year. Another bright spot for Tacoma is that Danny Hultzen (23) who had been placed on the disabled list and has missed almost a month because of a strained muscle in his throwing shoulder was was moved to extended spring training and is now throwing the ball again. It doesn’t need to be mentioned how well Hultzen was doing before he was injured, just because that would be more salt in the wound (3-1, 2.74 ERA, 5:1 K/BB ratio). Speaking of players who were recently cleared to start pitching again, Erasmo Ramirez (22) pitched an absolute gem Saturday evening in only his third start of the year. Ramirez was able to go seven innings without giving up an earned run while striking out seven and only walking one batter. Depending on whether or not pitching continues to be an issue at the major-league level, you could definitely expect him in Seattle around the All-Star break.
On one final note, I would just like to say it’s been nice during his and I’m glad to now the part of the website. If anyone has any specific questions on a Mariners prospects, you can reach me on twitter at @kylerfilkins. As always, see you in 10 games.