Each Monday during the minor league season, I will give our readers a rundown of the best and worst from the minor league week that was within the Seattle Mariners system. The focus will be to concentrate only on true prospects, but if any player has an exceptionally noteworthy good (or bad) week, he could appear here as well. This isn't a "stock going up" or "stock going down" on the player, just simply a recap of their week.
The goal is to not only keep you up to date on the goings on, but to try and give you a better look of what talent is in the system by spreading the coverage around.
This week's recap takes a look at a top prospect's struggles, and a former high draft pick's rejuvenating start among others.
Joe Dunigan - Jackson Generals: .400/.438/.967 (10-28), 3 2B, 4 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 4 SO, 2 SB
Dunigan had a monster week, leading the Southern League in HR, TB (25) & XBH (7) while also making good contact and throwing in a couple out of character stolen bases for good measure.
A former 5th round pick ('07) that has really struggled the past two seasons, Dunigan seems to finally be making some of the necessary adjustments to Double-A pitching in 2012 in his 3rd attempt at the level. Hitting in the middle of Jackson's order he simply had a monster week this past week. Primarily a DH, he most likely will never make enough contact to earn a significant big league job (623 strikeouts in 1,975 career minor league plate appearances), but his power is fun to watch, and he has been shouldering a lot of the offensive load for the Generals in the early going.
Taijuan Walker - Jackson Generals: 11 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 13 SO, 1.64 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, .154 oAVG
Walker shook off his sore neck from last weekend and made two very good starts for the Generals this week, getting a win and a no-decision in the process. He's 19, pitching in a league where the average age is over 24, but he's clearly one of the more talented arms in the Southern League.
Walker's ability to command his repertoire of two plus pitches and a developing change-up -- paired with his mid-90s velocity -- make him a tough match-up for almost any minor leaguer, so he is a good bet to continue piling up impressive strikeout totals like he did this week. Another thing he did well this week (and all through the '11 season) was have a very high ground ball ratio -- indicating that he is keeping his fastball down. He is very talented, but very young, and although he mentioned to me that it is a goal to reach the big leagues at some point in 2012, that isn't likely just purely based on his youth, inexperience and likely innings cap. But he will be fun to keep tabs on during the '12 minor league season, for sure.
Anthony Vasquez - Tacoma Rainiers: 7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO
Vasquez was tough to watch during his major league stint with the Mariners at the end of 2011 as he got hit around the park pretty hard, putting up an 8.90 ERA and 1.91 WHIP in seven starts. Forgetting his MLB struggles, his slow, slow and slower approach to pitching has been extremely successful in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Dating back to last July 5th, Vasquez has posted a 2.55 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 11 Triple-A starts for the Rainiers, allowing just 7.3 hits-per-nine. The former USC Trojan and 2009 18th round pick had another good PCL start this past week and currently leads the organization in Wins (3), ERA (0.87), WHIP (0.63) and oAVG (.125) through his first three starts. His change-up is his best pitch, but Vasquez needs to get more from either a breaking ball or his fastball if that success is to ever transfer to the big leagues.
James Paxton - Jackson Generals: 7 IP, 9 H, 13 BB, 5 SO, 9.00 ERA, 3.14 WHIP
Paxton's two starts this week were in stark contrast to his first two starts of 2012, when he not only succeeded but thrived. In fact, when you take those first two and these last two, they basically are a microcosm of his profile as a prospect: front-line potential, questions about mechanics and command.
After walking just 1 and allowing only 6 hits over 10 1/3 in his first two starts of 2012, and just 14 in his first nine Double-A starts dating back to last July, Paxton survived his first wild start on Monday against Mississippi -- allowing just one run despite walking eight -- but Huntsville didn't let him off the hook so easily. That start, with seven hits allowed, two wild pitches and five walks, could've been even worse if the Stars didn't bounce into a double play and get another runner thrown out on the bases. The game was still an unmitigated disaster, however, and Paxton actually had the worst WHIP (3.14) in all of Minor League Baseball for the week.
We all know he's better than this, but these command and mechanical issues are why there are still a few in the scouting world that think there is a possibility he could end up in the bullpen.
Trayvon Robinson - Tacoma Rainiers: .179/.200/.286 (5-28), 1 XBH, 2 BB, 9 SO
Robinson made some impressions at the big league level last season with his tools, but his inability to make consistent contact had him ticketed for a repeat performance in the PCL (where he sparkled in '11 prior to his trade) from day one of 2012 Spring Training with Seattle. And while there should still be no doubting his ability, Robinson continues to struggle this year in Triple-A, particularly this past week.
Playing center field and batting leadoff for the Rainiers, Robinson has drawn just two walks while striking out a whopping 22 times through the season's first 18 games. In the seven games from the past week Robinson struck out nine times, was caught stealing and hit into a double play. Breaking balls down and fastballs up seem to get Trayvon every time. He also has had a number of fly balls go over his head for extra bases as he plays a shallow center field to try and compensate for his less-than-stellar throwing arm. He can turn things around and he has an enticing combination of speed and power, but unless he gets a handle on his plate discipline issues, the other tools won't matter.
Guillermo Pimentel - Clinton LumberKings: .048/.048/.048 (1-21), 1 H, 9 SO
Making his second consecutive appearance on the wrong side of this list, Pimentel continues to struggle trying to adjust to the Midwest League. On a Clinton team struggling offensively as a whole, no player on the roster has struggled more than Pimentel. He had a four-strikeout game on Friday and is in a 3-46 slump at the plate since the 3rd game of the season, when he had his only two extra base hits.
In a talented outfield that just got a little more crowded with Mario Yepez joining his third team of the young season, the results need to start coming quick or the playing time will start to go away, perhaps even leading to a demotion. Pimentel is still a young player, but the contact issues have consistently plagued him and it's about time to see him take a step forward in his approach and/or pitch recognition if we're to keep high hopes for his development path.