Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down

In this installment of our weekly Monday statistical look at the good and bad in the Seattle Mariners system from the past seven days is highlighted by a rare low-minors pitching performance, an improved patience at the plate for a well-known outfield prospect and some big power from a streaky pitcher-turned-outfielder.

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 necessarily 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 past week saw one pitcher continue his roll in a big way, one pitcher fall completely off the tracks, and four hitters split down the middle with their successes.


Jordan Shipers - Clinton Lumber Kings: 1-0, 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO
Shipers, the smallish left-hander from a high school without a baseball team that earned a big signing bonus as a 16th-round selection in 2010, has been pitching well all season for Clinton. But he took it up a notch in his win over Burlington on Saturday, going the distance with a complete game, 3-hit shutout. He kept the ball down all night and got 11 ground ball outs in the game. Complete game shutouts are very rare at the lower minor league levels, and Shipers told reporters after the game that he had never even pitched eight innings before.

This game is certainly a highlight for Shipers, but his entire body of work in '12 has been impressive as he now boasts a 1.62 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in his six starts this season. He is doing a fantastic job of enticing opposing hitters to put the ball in play on the ground, with a 1.72 GO:AO ratio, too. Shipers came in as the No. 8 starting pitcher in the Mariners organization in my pre-season Prospect Depth Chart series, and his performance so far this year is doing nothing to dampen that ranking.

James Jones - High Desert Mavericks: .333/.360/.792 (8-24), 3B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, BB, 6 SO
Jones ranked just 3rd for the week on the team in both hits and average, but he made his hits count the most, collecting four extra base hits and driving in eight runs. Already a notoriously slow starter, this past week may have been the stretch that lights Jones' fire for the season as it raised his OPS by nearly .160 (.535 to .691).

Jones has always had a lot of natural ability, but even at age 23, the converted pitcher remains pretty raw. And while it is true that his numbers are tilted toward home cooking a bit so far (.835 OPS at home, .528 on the road), Jones ended the week with a 3-hit game (3-3), including a BB and a HR, on the road. Another good sign is that the lefty swinging Jones' OPS is actually higher on the season against left-handed pitching (.701) than righties (.685).

Trayvon Robinson - Tacoma Rainiers: .391/.516/.696 (9-23), 4 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 7 BB, 5 SO
Robinson has actually been swinging a very hot bay now for about 10 days, but the biggest thing he did over the last week to land on here was show some patience and plate discipline. Before this past week started, Trayvon -- batting leadoff for the Rainiers -- had drawn just three walks while striking out 27 times in 23 games. He drew seven walks against just five Ks in Tacoma's six games this week, and not surprisingly saw more success at the plate, too.

Robinson showed late last year at the big league level just what kind of talent he has, with switch-hitting power and good speed, but he has no shot at contributing in the majors without his plate discipline. His .125 point climb in OPS this week is due almost entirely to Trayvon rediscovering that lost part of his game.


Gabriel Noriega - Jackson Generals: .000/.143/.000 (0-12), 2 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SO
The worst part about Noriega's stat line above may actually be that those numbers might qualify for a successful week this year for the struggling middle infielder. Always much more of a glove man than a prospect with the bat, Noriega is hitting just .169/.245/.169 on the season with 25 strikeouts through 89 at bats. Yes, you are reading that right, he has zero extra base hits.

Not that the extra base hit is a big part of his game, but Noriega is showing less than zero life at the plate, as his .413 OPS is the second worst in the Southern League. He hit just .237/.268/.280 in 99 plate appearances at Double-A last year and only has a .630 OPS for his minor league career, but regardless of how good his defense is, the 21-year-old Noriega is going to have to show the ability to not be completely overmatched in the batter's box if he wants to continue playing professional baseball much longer.

Ramon Morla - Clinton LumberKings: .000/.000/.000 (0-11), 3 SO, 3 Errors
Morla played just three games this last week, but he still stuffed his stats in all the wrong places just plenty to wind up on this list. He went hitless, struck out three times, grounded into two double plays and made three more errors at third base for the LumberKings in a rough week that saw them get no-hit.

On the season now, Morla -- who at 22-years-old and in his third seasons of stateside ball may be a little old for the league -- is hitting just .194/.262/.323 with 25 strikeouts and a staggering 14 errors (13 of them at third base in 79 chances). After hitting .323/.364/.610 with 36 extra base hits in 64 games for Pulaski in 2010, Morla has managed to hit just .181/.228/.286 with only one homer in 54 games with Clinton this season and last.

Anthony Vasquez - Tacoma Rainiers: 0-1, 14.00 ERA, 2.78 WHIP, 9 IP, 21 H, 14 ER, 4 BB, 6 SO
We saw Vasquez pitch at the MLB level last year without really any success or signs for future promise, but when he started this season with three outstanding starts in a row (3 wins, a 0.87 ERA and 0.63 WHIP in 20 2/3 IP) perhaps some thought that he had figured something out that could help him succeed at the higher level after all.

Those high hopes all came crashing down to earth this past week as Vasquez posted the second worst ERA (14.00) and WHIP (2.78) in the entire PCL in getting hit around to the tune of a .477 average in his two starts. He still can't break a window with his fastball and batters are adjusting to the waiting game on his change-up enough that his ERA has now risen 5.01 points (to 5.88) over his last three starts while their average against him has more than doubled (from .125 to .290).

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