Category Archives: Working On the Farm

Posts about the Mariner’s minor league organizations

The Sad, Strange Case of Ji-Man Choi

Baseball’s a funny game. You can love your team. Then, if you love them enough, you’ll love their top prospects. If you love the top prospects enough, you’ll start to learn about the top performers on each farm team. It goes on and on until you start reciting the Clinton Lumberkings lineup numbers to your friends at a dinner party. Some people say it’s a waste of time and that’s fine.

In 2009, the Mariners sent some scouts to South Korea to take a look at a group of pitchers, namely Seon Gi Kim.  The Mariners ended up signing that pitcher and brought him stateside.  Catching Kim that day was a converted third basemen who not many knew about.  The Mariners liked what they saw in the short tryout and decided to sign him, as well.  This happens fairly often.  Teams take flyers on guys and this third basemen-turned-catcher happened to be one.

Once stateside in 2010, these 2 players joined the Arizona rookie league.  Kim had good stuff but sported a ballooned ERA.  The other South Korean didn’t have any trouble though.  He hit .360 with a .440 OBP and .517 slugging percentage.  He was eventually promoted to the high-A team, High Desert, and posted an .822 OPS all as a 19-year-old.  Mariners prospect nerds became enticed with this player who was unknown a year before.  The legend of Ji-Man Choi was born.

While Choi was hitting everything in sight, the Mariners were slowly breaking him into the catcher position.  He played most of his time and first base and DH but every third or fourth day he’d be behind the plate.  Needless to say, a left-handed hitting catcher who drew a ton of walks was pretty exciting.

2011’s spring training rolled around and there was Choi, working out with the catchers.  Then, all of a sudden, he was just gone.  Following minor-league baseball is hard to do in this day and age because we, as fans, are so used to getting all the information we want right away.  When a low-minors baseball player disappears from box scores there’s only so much a common fan can try to figure out.  This was the case with Choi.  Eventually it came out that Ji-Man had back pain.  The pain was so extensive that he didn’t play a game in 2011.  They eventually found a broken bone and then inserted a rod and two screws into Choi’s back.

The first few months of 2012 came and went and there was no sign of him in the box scores.  He had the rod and screws removed and later showed up in Clinton in late May.

Missing your 20 year-old season as a baseball player is a big deal.  That’s one of the formative years for prospects.  Choi hadn’t played in a baseball game in almost a year and a half.  He was inserted into the Clinton lineup and on his first day back he went 2-4 with a double.

Ji-Man looked as if he hadn’t missed any time at all.  He split that time in 2012 rotating between first base and DH and ended.  He wasn’t great but he was good and, as a 20 year-old, he put up an .895 OPS.

As prospect lists became to come out over that off-season, Choi was left off.  There were two reasons for this:  One, he had just been injured for a year and a half.  Two, he didn’t have enough power to be a major league first baseman. Ji_Man_Choi_1280_kju6a1er_qc4gs806

2013 came and Ji-Man started the year at High Desert.  A hitters paradise.  In his 48 games there Choi posted a .337/.427/.619 slash line.  He had more extra base hits than singles and walked 27 times while only striking out 33 times.  Naturally, he was promoted to Jackson, the Mariners AA team.  The average dropped off some there but not much else did.  He sported .862 OPS in his stop in Jackson, a much tougher league to hit in, at the ripe age of 22.  My favorite stat from there?  His 32 walks and 28 strikeouts.  At the end of his great season, he got the call up to Tacoma for a handful of games.  It was the cherry on top of a great season.

Choi started appearing on more prospect lists over this off-season.  One complaint remained.  Yep, you guessed it.  He can’t hit for enough power.  Still, the Ji-Man train trudged on.

He started 2014 in Tacoma.  Guess what he did there?  Hit.  He hit a lot.  In 10 games he posted a .395/.500/.545.  Granted, it was 10 games but anyone who had followed his career wasn’t surprised.  The guy had already overcome so much, being only 22, that it wasn’t a surprise that he was, well, a surprise.

Maybe the Mariners finally had a guy to push Justin Smoak.  A guy who maybe didn’t have the power potential but actually had some consistency.  A guy who could possibly do what John Olerud did on the last successful Mariners team, get on base, hit doubles and play great defense.

Word broke this afternoon that Ji-Man Choi had been suspended 50 games for the use of a performance enhancing drug.  The drug was methandienone, a type of anabolic steroid.

It just made so much sense.  A guy who was constantly knocked for his lack of home run power at a power position was taking an illegal substance to make him stronger.  He’s only like 195 pounds, for crying out loud.  Then, this came out, via Choi:

“A banned substance was detected in my urine sample,” Choi said. “I do not know what I could have taken that caused me to test positive. I have not and never would knowingly use anything illegal to enhance my performance. However, I also understand that without an explanation I must serve a suspension and I accept that. I look forward to putting this behind me and to returning to help the Mariners ballclub once my suspension has ended.”

Maybe it didn’t make sense at all?  Why would a guy who has never been the ‘star prospect’ but overcome that with pure skill and a disciplined approach break from that?  Choi is a smart baseball who makes up for his lack of home runs by taking his walks and hitting the ball into the gap.  Why would a smart guy do this when he was so close?

The only person who knows if Choi took this steroid is Choi himself.  He said he didn’t and many people probably don’t believe him.  He’s probably used to people doubting him anyway.  Hopefully, he doesn’t care.

Baseball’s interesting.  You know 25 guys and then you read about the next 25 guys people think you might see in a few years.  It goes on and on until someone tells you to shut up at a dinner party.  For some reason, I love Ji-Man Choi’s story and today it took another turn.  My favorite prospect, a guy I’ve never seen play a game, is out for a while because he possibly did something bad and I’m upset.  I’ll look forward to early June when Choi will show back up in the Tacoma box scores and Mike Curto will send out tweets about his 2-4 nights, with a double and a walk.  In the mean time I’ll just keep envisioning Choi as the next John Olerud.  That’s ending of his story that I like the best.

I wonder how Jabari Blash is doing.

– Andrew

 

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He’s the Ji-Man!

As of late, many of the Mariners young exciting position prospects have graduated to the big league level.  For the first time in a while, the big league club is more exciting than daydreaming of the future while you look at minor league box scores.  But, the minor leagues are a constant beam of sunshine creeping up to the horizon.  More players will put up good results resulting in more hope.  So, if you’re suffering from withdrawals from not seeing Zunino and Miller in Tacoma, here’s a new guy to keep an eye on: Ji-Man Choi.

Choi’s story is an interesting one.  He is a native of South Korea and was signed by the Seattle Mariners on July 2nd of 2009 as a 17-year-old.  The hope was that Choi could keep playing catcher, as his bat was well ahead of his defense.  In 2010, Ji-Man reported to the rookie league in Arizona.  He started ten games at catcher and, while he didn’t excel there, the hope remained that he could be a catcher.  He certainly hit well, posting a .360/.440/.517 line between the rookie league and High Desert.  All of this as an 18 and 19-year-old.

2011 came and didn’t bring good news with it.  Choi lost the entire year to injury (mostly his back, but a few issues with his knees if I remember right).  These were the developmental years that were hard to get back.  Losing a year is what derails prospects.  Ask Carlos Triunfel.

As 2012 started Ji-Man was nowhere to be found in the system.  He was still rehabbing from his injury and finally showed up on the Clinton roster midway through June.  When he did show up, his career as a catcher appeared to be over.  Choi split his time between first and DH while putting up a .298/.420/.463.  They are respectable numbers but he was a 21-year-old playing a power position without much power.

When this year started, Choi was well down on the prospect lists.  He started off the year in High Desert and destroyed it.  For the Mavericks, Choi had 34 extra-base hits in 181 at-bats and an OBP of .427.  He also played a few games at third base and reviews on his defense were pretty high.

Around the first of June, Ji-Man was promoted to double-A Jackson.  At 22 years old (still fairly young for the league), he started off slowly.  After a couple of weeks he got back to himself and has raised his numbers at Jackson to .271/.373/.528.  It appears the Choi has developed more power (as young players are prone to do) and has 15 homers on the year between the two levels.  He shows good patience and has always hit doubles at every level.

About a year ago, Ji-Man Choi was an afterthought.  As a 21-year-old, Choi’s career was on the verge of being labeled a ‘disappointment’.  Now, a year later, he is one of the best hitters in the Mariners’ minor league system.

– Andrew

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Some Minor Promotions

The Mariners roster is in disarray.  There are moves that have happened (Jesus Montero is in Tacoma), moves that might be happening (nobody knows what’s going on with Andino as of 1:50 P.M. today) and moves that should happen (Aaron Harang is still on the roster).  There is mass speculation on what the Mariners should do.  Some of it is intelligent, some of it isn’t at all.  Most people calling into radio stations aren’t, I’ve found in the last two days.

This paragraph should be a separate blog post but I wanted to throw it in anyway.  Form your own opinions on these Mariners roster decisions (and all decisions for that matter).  When you do, form the opinions after you are informed and read multiple reports.  There are plenty of statistics and a fountain of information a few clicks away.  Go make informed opinions.

I’m not going to add to the Mariner speculation mainly because there is too much of it right now.  Instead, this post is about guys down in the lower minors who may be promoted to a higher level in the next month or so, due to good performance.  I’ll start with the low minors and work my way up, picking a few guys from each level.

Clinton Lumberkings (One of the best mascot names)

Dylan Unsworth (SP) – Unsworth has put up great numbers in the minors in the last year and a half.  His K/BB ratio is 34/2 right now.  He’s pitcher 47 innings and has walked 2 guys.  He is right-handed and doesn’t crack 90 MPH so odds are against him but I’m interested in how his 2.49 ERA and one HR given up all year would translate in Jackson (AA) or High-Desert (high-A).

Grady Wood (RP) – Wood is the closer in Clinton.  He’s sporting a 2.78 ERA and has a 20/5 K/BB ratio.  He’s 23 and was drafted last year where he pitched for Everett.  I should state that Clinton usually favors pitchers while High-Desert heavily favors hitters.

Others worth considering:
Tyler Pike (SP) 38 IP, 2.37 ERA, 34/17 K/BB
Dario Pizzano (RF) .327/.396/.483 14 doubles and 3 HR

High-Desert Mavericks 

Ji-Man Choi (1B) – Choi is somewhat of a cult hero in the Mariners minor league system.  He has always put up good numbers but never seems to stay healthy.  This year he has been on the field and, surprise, he’s put up great numbers.  He’s gone through position changes and is at first base right now (although he has played a little bit of third).  Choi just had his 21 game hit streak snapped.  His slash line is .356/.449/.658 bringing his OPS to 1.107.  It’s not all High Desert, either.  On the road his OPS is still over 1.000.  The downside to Choi, other than the health issues, is that he doesn’t have a lot of home run power.  He’s hit 6 home runs (3 on the road, 3 at home) but he does hit a lot of doubles (21) and plays good defense.  He has 30 extra base hits in 40 games.  Of all of the guys I want called up to the next level, Choi probably tops the list.

Chris Taylor (SS) – So, who’s the Mariners shortstop of the future?  Chris Taylor is entering that conversation (along with Nick Franklin, Carlos Triunfel, and Brad Miller).  Taylor was drafted last year out of the University of Virginia (he was teammates with Danny Hultzen and John Hicks, also in the Mariners system).  Taylor has hit at every level, so far, and is probably the best defensive shortstop in the system.  Taylor is hitting  .342/.444/.522 with an OPS of .966.  His OPS on the road is .860, so he’s not solely benefitting from High Desert.  He doesn’t have a ton of power (19 extra base-hits in 46 games) but he has good plate discipline.  Brad Miller just got called up to Tacoma, so Taylor may be sent up to Jackson before this post is finished.  That seems like it’d be a good move.

Others Worth Considering:
George Mieses (RP) 23.2 IP, 4.94 ERA, 26/10 K/BB
 (ERA is tough to judge in High Desert).

Jackson Generals 

Taijuan Walker (SP) 52 IP, 2.77 ERA, 57/25 K/BB

Walker is still probably the top prospect in the Mariners system.  People say he’s struggling, but these numbers aren’t really showing that.  His walks are higher than everyone would like but a little bit of wildness doesn’t put me off as much as it does others.  His strikeouts are through the roof and opposing batters are hitting .197 against him.  Walker could receive a promotion once Harang is DFA’d or a few Tacoma pitchers are called up.  

Julio Morban (OF) 

Julio is like Ji-Man Choi or Franklin Gutierrez, if you’d rather.  He puts up great numbers while on the field but he can’t stay on the field enough.  When Morban is on the field he is easily their best outfield prospect.  Morban’s slash line is .344/.394/.563 making his OPS .957.  Morban has only played in 27 games this year though and that’s the real problem.  Having him healthy would be a big boost for the Mariners system.

Others Worth Considering:
Chance Ruffin (SP) 47 IP, 2.87 ERA, 33/10 K/BB (Yes, he was bad, but he seems to be doing well in the new starting role.  He could just be benefitting due to the lower level though.)
Carson Smith (RP) 14.1 IP, 3.14 ERA, 20/5 K/BB (Smith had a rough beginning to the season but has since calmed down and looked very good.  I mean, look at those strikeouts.)

As I mentioned, Brad Miller has just been called up to Tacoma to replace Triunfel.  As a hitter, think of him as Kyle Seager.  A few home runs here and there but more doubles than anything.  Although Nick Franklin is a popular target at this point, Miller could become just as popular in a matter of weeks.

Until next time!  Believe Big!

Andrew

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Danny Hultzen and Other Tacoma Notes

It was a fairly busy sports weekend in the Seattle area, and I spent the weekend going to a few baseball games.  Sandwiched in between the Rainiers on Thursday and Mariners on Saturday was one of the biggest recruiting days in Husky football history.  I’ll hopefully get to that tomorrow.  The Mariners don’t have much to talk about aside from Munenori Kawasaki being extremely awesome, so I’ll start off recapping the weekend by writing about how my weekend started.

On Thursday, Matthew, our cousin (and loyal blog reader) Tyler, and I made the trek down to Tacoma to see the Danny Hultzen-Jamie Moyer match-up.  A trek it was.  It took us two and a half hours to get from Bellevue to Tacoma but that’s beside the point, this isn’t a traffic blog, it’s a sports blog!  Although, a traffic blog may be more entertaining than talking about the Mariners sometimes.  Anyway, we missed one of Hultzen’s innings because of traffic but caught his other 3 innings.

The future Mariner has a hunched over windup, kind of like his shoulders are slouching.  Other than that, the rest of his windup was pretty standard.  His right foot starts a little bit in front of the rubber and steps to the side, more than it steps backwards.  There’s a fairly normal leg kick and his arm comes a little higher than the 3/4’s slot.  His follow-through is fairly normal (more on that later) as well.  Here’s some video of the start.  His fastball sat at about 93 and he flashed 96 twice up on the radar gun (I don’t think the radar gun was hot or anything because Moyer was about where he has been all season and even below that at times).  We didn’t see much of his change-up because he didn’t seem to have a lot of control of it.  Maybe it was just an off night for that pitch, as it’s usually a plus pitch for him.  His slider had tons of movement, although he didn’t have plus control on that either.  It was a great strikeout pitch though.

Hultzen walked 4 guys in 4 innings during the game.  All of the walks came when Hultzen was pitching out of the stretch.  Hultzen often switched his between a slide-step and a high leg kick when runners were on first base.  Based on the video, I think he’s a little better when he’s not using the slide-step.  Maybe he doesn’t have a good pick-off move (he didn’t use one, that I recall) but a good amount of lefties get away with not using a slide-step.  His control was definitely a problem out of the stretch.

Another problem Hultzen seemed to have was finishing his pitches.  Matthew picked up on it right away, and after watching the video I have to agree with him.  In the second inning, when Danny got into some trouble, he seemed to really struggle with this.  By not finishing his pitch, I mean to say that his leg and arm didn’t follow through as much as they usually do.  To use the famous phrase, he was trying to “aim it and not throw it.”  It was especially apparent on off-speed pitches (this gave the pitch away to some hitters) but there were a few fastballs where it seemed to be a problem as well.

All in all, Danny was good.  There weren’t many hard hit balls, the issue was strictly control.  He has great stuff and will succeed.  He does have to work through this control issue.  I don’t know if the mechanical things I mentioned are a constant problem or just an abnormality.  If anyone goes to see him in Tacoma again (he’ll pitch again on Tuesday) look for what I mentioned and let us know.

I’ve got a few more thoughts on Nick Franklin, Triunfel, and Peguero after the jump.  Continue reading

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Checking in on the Young ‘Uns – Clinton

The Mariners are currently ahead by two touchdowns in Texas, Justin Smoak seems like a new man, and Kyle Seager could be the Mariners new 3 hitter for the rest of the season but this good guy is still talking about a minor league team.  Why?  Because it’s the last one in a series and I promised myself I’d finish this before I’d write anything else.  There’s nothing worse than breaking promises to yourself.

I’ve covered Tacoma, Jackson, and High Desert in the last couple of weeks (read them by clicking on the location that you’re interested in).  Today, I’m going to check in on some of the guys from the Clinton Lumberkings (low-A ball).  Aside from the awesome nickname, Clinton doesn’t have the most exciting club.  They are 18-33 and haven’t had anybody completely surprise us like Taijuan Walker did last year (although, that’s not completely fair to say because Walker is a first round draft pick who pitches with that kind of talent).  One thing to consider is that high draft picks from Monday’s draft (especially college guys) who sign quickly could be sent to Clinton.  That’s one thing to look for.  Anyway, I’ll highlight some guys, starting with position players.  If you have any questions let me know in the comments.

Steve Baron (C) – .226/.271/.351, 2 HR, 1 3B, 13 2B, 17 RBI, 36/9 K/BB, .622 OPS.

I include Baron because he was 1st-round draft pick and people usually like to follow along with those.  The truth is, Baron probably isn’t a serious prospect and most people don’t see him reaching the majors.  On the plus side, he’s very young still and he has improved some.  He’s hit a good amount of doubles this season and that’s great to see.  He’s also hit 2 home runs in the last 3 days.  You go, Steve!  Otherwise, his hitting is really lacking.  People say he’s good defensively but I can’t really speak to that.  More doubles and more walks, Steve!

Mike Dowd (C) – .244/.320/.267, 2 2B, 12 RBI, 8/11 K/BB, .587 OPS.

Dowd has only played in 25 games this year, so this is a pretty small sample size.  Dowd obviously isn’t hitting for much power but the walks are nice.  Dowd is another defense first catcher who is just a few months older than Baron.  Maybe one of these guys will work out but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Dan Paolino (2B) – .258/.329/.386, 3 HR, 8 2B, 20 RBI, 15/12 K/BB, .715 OPS. 

Paolino was a 10th round pick in last years draft and has been doing alright in Clinton.  There’s not a lot of power coming out of him.  He’s splitting time at 2nd with Dillon Hazlett who is basically hitting the exact same as him.  Anyway, Paolino isn’t striking out much and is walking some.  His OPS is acceptable for a middle infielder but he’s not blowing anyone away.

Guillermo Pimental (LF) – .206/.255/.301, 2 HR, 7 2B, 18 RBI, 49/7 K/BB, .557 OPS.

This is disappointing.  We had a discussion on this blog before the season about Pimental being the number 2 prospect in the system by the start of next season.  That seems like a long ways off at that moment.  Pimental has struck out in over a 1/3 of his at-bats.  His power hasn’t quite come either.  He has been abysmal against southpaws, sporting a .065 batting average.  Pimental did seem like he was getting going but then got injured and was out for about 2 weeks.  He has come back recently and we’ll see if he continues to heat up.  The hope is still high on him, but this season shows that he may have a long ways to come.

Jabari Blash (RF) – .220/.342/.421, 8 HR, 2 3B, 5 2B, 23 RBI, 53/29 K/BB, .763 OPS.

Blash is a 3 outcome hitter – a strikeout, walk or extra base hit.  Having an OBP that’s .122 points higher than his batting average speaks to his abilities in taking a walk.  Like Pimental, Blash has struck out in about a 1/3 of his at-bats.  Blash is really pretty interesting although I don’t know if he’ll ever make it up to the bigs.  I’d like to see the crazy stats he could put up in High-Desert because of his power.

Ji-Man Choi (C?/1B/DH) has just joined the club recently.  Choi was an intriguing prospect but spent most of last year injured.  He has played catcher but it looks like that might be over with after his injuries.  The guy can hit but I don’t know if he can hit enough to be a major league first baseman.

Pitchers (all 2 of them) after the jump. Continue reading

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Checking in on the Young ‘uns – High Desert

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.  Continue reading

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Checking in on the Young ‘uns – Jackson

Last week, I took a look at Tacoma’s top performers and prospects.  I mostly came away disappointed.  Since then, Carlos Triunfel has continued hitting and Andrew Carraway had a good start but otherwise not a lot changed.  In this post, I won’t be very disappointed.  Jackson was heralded as the Mariners’ most talented farm team and the most talented minor league team in all of baseball by many.  They haven’t disappointed much.  They haven’t just blown people away (mostly because of their offense) but they do sport a 23-17 record (as of Wednesday, May 16th).

Since the beginning of the season, Andrew Carraway (SP) and Stephen Pryor (RP) have moved up to Tacoma.  I covered them in my post about the Rainiers but they’ve been pretty awesome.  Chih-Hsien Chiang has also moved up to Tacoma since the beginning of the season, mostly due to injuries and not awesomeness.  Steven Proscia (3B) started out in High Desert as a guy to keep an eye on and he’s made his way up to Jackson.  He obviously excelled at High Desert but has struggled through his first few at-bats in AA.  He’s someone to keep an eye on though.  Otherwise, the other guys I highlighted in my seasoning opening post are still in Jackson.  Again, if there’s any questions about players (or anything else, leave them in the comments).  All stats are updated through Wednesday, lets start with position players (and go by position).

Rich Poythress (1B) – .259/.352/.375, 1 HR, 10 2B’s, 18 RBI’s, 14/16 K/BB, .727 OPS

Rich is currently on the 7-day DL but he should be back soon (it is only the seven-day DL).  Poythress hasn’t hit many home runs but he’s tied for the team lead in doubles.  Maybe he misses High Desert?  He’s a right-handed hitter and his OPS is over .500 points higher against left-handed pitching (although, small sample sizes).  His lone home run and 4 of his 10 doubles have come against left-handed pitching even though he’s only faced them 28 times compared to 84 at-bats against right-handers.  Obviously, his K/BB ratio is very good right now.  Keep that up, Rich!  Poythress had a great year in High Desert in 2010 but hasn’t done much in Jackson last year or this year.  The lefty-righty splits are interesting and could make him an interesting option as a platoon bat going forward.

Nick Franklin (SS) – .318/.373/.467, 2 HR, 10 2B’s, 14 RBI’s, 16/10 K/BB, .840 OPS.

Through the top three levels of the Mariners system there’s one position that is having a great amount of success hitting – shortstop.  That’s weird, now if only they could play defense.  Franklin is probably the best position player prospect in the Mariners system and he hasn’t disappointed thus far.  He’s hitting for a good average, a few more walks and homers would be nice but I won’t complain with these results.  He’s still only 21 and could see Tacoma by seasons end.  The one stat that is a bit scary… 7 errors.  This is a common theme among the systems shortstops.  Franklin has been dealing with a small, nagging foot injury.  That’s annoying but it’s not serious.

Francisco Martinez (3B, CF?) – .245/.317/.311, 0 HR, 8 2B’s, 1 3B, 9 RBI’s, 34/16 K/BB, .629 OPS, 14 SB.

Francisco hasn’t really hit.  Well, that’s not fair.  He’s done okay, just not very well.  He’s got 9 extra base hits which is 5th on the team.  Plus, he’s 14 of 16 in stolen bases.  The organization loves his speed and has been messing around with the idea of him playing center field.  Go for it!  We have terrible outfield prospects, do it!  Anyway, Martinez strikes out a ton, which is bad.  He’s always had a gaudy amount of strikeouts and this year has been no different.  If he could raise his contact rate, I’d be very interested in what Martinez could be.  For now, he just seems like a really fast guy.

Steven Proscia (3B) – .317/.348/.545, 8 HR, 9 2B’s, 25 RBI’s, 30/8 K/BB, .893 OPS.

These are Proscia’s combined numbers between High Desert and Jackson.  He’s had 24 at-bats since being called up to Jackson and only 4 hits.  3 of those hits have been home runs though.  That’s pretty neat.  You know what’s not neat?  Strikeouts.  Maybe our minor league team has been watching our major league team too much.  Proscia definitely has power and can get some extra base hits but he swings and misses too much.  If he could cut that down just a bit he could become a really interesting prospect like a few other third base prospects in the system.  Who would have thought the M’s most interesting position player prospects would be at SS and 3B.  Have the Mariners had a good shortstop since Carlos Guillen?  Have they ever had a good third baseman not named Beltre? Sorry Steve, this paragraph was supposed to be about you.  I forgot.  Strike out less and hit more!

Johermyn Chavez (RF) – .287/.357/.436, 3 HR’s, 6 2B’s, 10 RBI’s, 21/10 K/BB, .793 OPS.

Chavez has been hurt for the past few weeks but otherwise he’s been about what we expected.  He strikes out a lot but otherwise has put average numbers.  He’s another guy who had a great year at High Desert in 2010 but still hasn’t put it together in Jackson.

Joseph Dunigan (OF) – .303/.357/.568, 7 HR’s, 10 2B’s, 2 3B’s, 21 RBI’s, 38/9 K/BB, .925 OPS, 6 SB.

Power! Strikeouts…. Power!  I wouldn’t have guessed before the season that Dunigan would be the M’s outfield prospect who’s having the best season.  He’s 26, in AA, and was pretty crappy last year.  But, he has 19 extra base hits.  Double that and you have his strikeouts.  The strikeouts are the only thing that keep me from taking Dunigan very seriously.  He’s always had decent power, a bad average and a lot of strikeouts.  The average has improved but will it stay that way.  With 38 of his 133 at-bats ending in K’s I would guess no, but hopefully I’m wrong.  Thus far, he may be the biggest surprise of the season.  You go, Joe!  By the way, Dunigan has 19 extra base hits and only 21 RBI’s.  Is this normal?  It seems like that’s a lack of RBI’s or maybe I’m way off.

We get to the pitchers after the jump.  It’s all good news after the jump (well, mostly). Continue reading

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