So far, we’ve looked at the Mariners’ AAA (Tacoma) and AA (Jackson) teams in this series. Today we head to California to check in on the High Desert Mavericks. The place where the Mavericks play is very descriptive of its climate. The single-A team plays at a high elevation. They also play in a desert which is hot. Guess what that means? A bunch of ding-dongers and crazy offensive stats. While the rest of the Mavericks league have favorable parks for hitters, their home park might be the most offensive park in baseball. Not just in their league, or in single-A, in all of baseball. That means the stats for the Maverick hitters are off the charts. Conversely, the pitching stats are terrible. I’ll try to wade through some of the misleading stats but that’s hard to do in a few sentences. Just don’t go crazy about a hitters numbers or get too bummed about a pitchers numbers. There, I hope that makes you cautious.
High Desert, like the Jackson Generals, is in first place. They don’t have quite the record Jackson has but it’s a very respectable 25-21. Nice job! It seems like most of their hitters have good slash lines so I’ll pick out the few I’m interested in and if you have questions about the others than just let me know in the comments. As I’ve been doing, I’ll start with the hitters (so good news first here):
John Hicks (C) – .300/.350/.471, 5 HR, 14 2B, 32 RBI, 31/11 K/BB, .820 OPS
Just to drive the point home a little further, Hicks would have the 4th best OPS if he had been playing in Jackson. On High Desert though his OPS is 10th best. An .820 OPS is 10th best on the team! That’s crazy! Anyway, Hicks was Danny Hultzen’s catcher last year in college and was the M’s 4th round draft pick last year. Sure enough, Hicks’ OPS is .300 points worse in road games than it is in home games. He has homered 3 times on the road, while just twice at home. That’s somewhat encouraging but 12 of his 14 doubles have come at home. We’d like Hicks to walk more and strikeout less. He’s a catcher in the Mariners’ system though so that won’t happen.
Jack Marder (C) – .350/.406/.556, 4 HR, 1 3B, 10 2B, 18 RBI, 18/8 K/BB, .962 OPS.
Marder was another college catcher drafted last year. He went to Oregon and has split time between catcher and DH with Hicks this year. He did miss a chunk of about 20 days this year due to injury. He’s back, healthy and playing now. His OPS is about .350 points better at home but it’s a decent .777 on the road. Not good, but decent according to Mariner standards. There are questions about Hicks and Marder’s defense this year. They both seem to have their problems but that’s why in they’re both down in the minors, they can work on these things. Their slash lines are good and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them is promoted to Jackson at some point. With that said, I’m not blown away by either of them.
Brad Miller (SS) – .318/.415/.570, 9 HR, 2 3B, 14 2B, 29 RBI, 42/30 K/BB, .985 OPS, 9 SB.
Miller started the season on fire (not literally), and has put up pretty good numbers hitting in the first quarter of the season. Continuing with the theme, his OPS is just under .500 points higher at home. 11 of his 14 doubles and 6 of his 9 home runs are at home, as well. That’s not so encouraging. He’s taken lot of walks and has only increased that rate in the last few weeks. He has struck out about 23% of the time. Which isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it’d be. I don’t know why I told you about all of that. His defense has been terrible (17 errors) and he’s a prime target to move away from his current position. I’ve read that centerfield may be an option and that’s where I’m hoping for. Miller did have success in limited time in Clinton last year with his hitting, so there may be reason for continued optimism with this hitting.
Stefan Romero (3B) – .350/.374/.588, 8 HR, 2 3B, 14 2B, 37 RBI, 24/7 K/BB, .962 OPS.
Romero was drafted in the 12th round in 2010 by the M’s. He hit pretty well last year in Clinton and ended up with a decent .803 OPS. That’s okay for that ballpark. Now, he’s upgraded ballparks and become an extra-base machine. Thankfully, his home and road splits aren’t as drastic as the prospects before. Romero has a .848 OPS on the road. Half of his home runs have come on the road and while his home average is not sustainable (.397) he’s still hitting a perfectly adequate .313 away from the desert. He’s not really walking. That’s a bummer but when you’re hitting really well, walks aren’t a huge worry (see Kyle Seager). His strikeouts aren’t very high either so that’s awesome. Romero hasn’t just been a case of High Desert like some of these players have been. The guy can hit. His fielding may come into question. He reminds me quite a bit of Vinnie Catricala so far in his progression.
Julio Morban (OF) – .374/.425/.692, 8 HR, 2 3B, 6 2B, 28 RBI, 23/9 K/BB, .1.117 OPS.
Julio may be the surprise of the season. It’s not that he isn’t talented. He was a big bonus guy when he signed but he’s had tons of trouble staying healthy thus far. He’s played regularly in the last month and has been, to borrow from Nick Holt, awesome. Morban is still only 20 and has plenty of time left to develop. Morban isn’t just a byproduct of playing at High Desert either. In fact, he’s hitting better away from home (yahoo)!! His OPS on the road is 1.288 compared to .958 at home. He’s hitting better against lefties than he is righties (although, that’s a very small sample). Morban is probably the surprise of the season. If he keeps this up, to any extent, he will be moving up to Jackson and shooting up prospect lists in a hurry.
Jumping to the pitchers after the jump… There won’t be many of them. There’s no one here that I really want to mention. But, I’ll try to pull out a few.
Carson Smith (RP) – 2-1, 1 sv, 14 G, 6.00 ERA, 18 IP, 20 H, 12 ER, 15/14 K/BB
Now remember that hitters benefit and pitchers are hurt from High Desert. Take Carson for example, he has a 9.72 ERA at home and a 2.79 ERA on the road. I thought Smith would be starting this year and didn’t know he had been switched to relief until I was writing this. His K/BB ratio is bad. That probably doesn’t help with his ERA and he can’t blame High Desert for that.
Jonathan Arias (RP) – 2-2, 4 sv, 16 G, 6.26 ERA, 23 IP, 26 H, 16 ER, 27/6 K/BB.
Arias was a former catcher who strikes a lot of people out. 27 K’s in 23 innings is good. So, how much is High Desert affecting him? Not much, unfortunately. While the strikeouts are good, he’s given up 8 homers (4 on the road and 4 at home). He’ll have to cut down on the number of hits given up but at least he’s somewhat interesting because of the K/BB ratio.
Cameron Hobson (SP) – 2-7, 10 GS, 4.83 ERA, 54 IP, 55 H, 29 ER, 39/14 K/BB
Hobson started the year in Clinton and pitched better there but still, he wasn’t very good. I was somewhat excited to see what Hobson would do this year because he was pretty awesome in limited time in Everett last year. This year his strikeouts have gone down quite a ways and he’s giving up a lot of hits. Now, unfortunately he’s in High Desert. They usually don’t put good starting pitching prospects in High Desert because they want them to keep a tiny bit of self-esteem.
So, that’s all I’m going to do as far as the pitchers go. Again, any questions ask in the comments. Thanks for reading and I’ll get to Clinton shortly.