Minor League Roundup

A week filled with All-Star banter and trade talks, resulted in an 18-14 week for the organization's farm system. Inconsistency still seeps into the performances from Tacoma all the way down to Everett. Being a club with an abundance of starting pitching, the M's are, however, elated to see the offensive stars beginning to strut their stuff. A recap of the teams' performances waits inside InsidthePark.com's exclusive Minor League Roundup.

Triple-A Tacoma went 3-4 last week, and it's getting a bit tired. It seems to be the way the entire year has gone for the Rainiers, who continue to dwell at the bottom of the PCL standings…

Rainiers Manager Dan Rohn can't seem to catch a break. Not soon after Rafael Soriano and Matt Thornton go back to back in great starts and Brian Falkenborg gets set to return to the rotation, the M's call Soriano back to SAFECO, and Thornton has a relapse of a past neck injury…

Rohn did receive a gift from the baseball gods four weeks ago when 24-year old right-hander Rett Johnson arrived.

Johnson is now 4-1 with an astounding 0.53 ERA in 33.2 innings pitched after his complete game, four-hit shutout on Friday…

Thornton, 26, will soon rejoin the rotation and team with Johnson, Falkenborg and lefty Craig Anderson to form a pretty good staff…

The offense, a weak spot all year long, has shown some signs of turning it up a bit.

Jamal Strong has catalyzed the offense despite a batting average under .230. Strong is getting on base and wreaking havoc that would make Rickey Henderson proud of himself.

The speedster has eight steals in nine attempts in his two weeks with the club…

JR Phillips, Kenny Kelly, Chad Meyers, Andy Barkett, and All-Star C Pat Borders are slowly putting together a decent offensive team in Tacoma.

Double-A San Antonio hit a bit of a bump in the road going 3-3 last week, perhaps proving they aren't the second coming of the '27 Yankees.

Still, at 64-29 on the year, the defending Texas League Champions are well on their way to being the overwhelming favorite again to win the crown once again…

The story, as always down in Mission-ville, is the starting pitching. Clint Nageotte, Travis Blackley, Bobby Madritsch, Chris Wright and Kevin Olore form the minor leagues' best rotation.

Blackley, 20, continues to lead the league in ERA (2.20) and wins (12) while Nageotte, 22, leads the league in Strikeouts (115) and third in Wins (9) and ERA (2.62). San Antonio leads the league with a team ERA of 3.09…

The pitching stars don't end with the "En Fuego Five"; with record-breaking closer Jared Hoerman rolling along with a league leading 28 saves.

Setup-men Tim Hamulack (1.26 ERA) and Texas League All-Star Josue Matos (2.44 ERA) provide stingy relief work leading up to Hoerman in the ninth frame…

The offense in San Antonio has picked back up after four weeks of the rotation carrying the team.

1B A.J. Zapp remains the league leader in homeruns and leads the team with 65 RBI.

SS Jose Lopez has had two-straight weeks with a .300 or better average and seems to have made the mid-season adjustment.

3B Justin Leone continues to stroke fastballs all over the yard, and if someone could teach him to hit the curve ball, he'd be the minor-league equivalent of Troy Glaus…

The most important piece of information from San Antonio this week came in the full-time return of OF Chris Snelling.

After several weeks of spot duty and DH'ing, the 21-year-old Aussie has regained enough strength and mobility in his surgically repaired knee, to play LF on a regular basis.

Snelling hit .423 in six games last week and at times looked to be too much for some of the league's best pitchers…

OF Michael Curry has quietly put together a great season. Leading the league in steals with 40, Curry is also playing fine defense in CF and hitting well in the clutch.

The well-rounded Missions lead the league with a mind-boggling 154 steals.

Advanced-A Inland Empire had a nice seven-day stretch going 4-2. The 66ers are now tied for the California League Northern division lead with Lake Elsinore, both sporting a 14-9 record for the second half…

The Inland offense posted a solid week, scoring 35 runs, including a 16 run explosion on Sunday…

The San Bernardino-based affiliate continues to be led offensively by Greg Jacobs, the league's leading hitter at .354.

Jacobs (9HR, 59RBI), along with 1B John Castellano (.303), 3B Hunter Brown (11HR, 43 RBI) OF Dustin Delucchi (.347), C Luis Oliveros (.290) and OF Shin-Soo Choo (.292), lead a superbly balanced attack of speed, gap hitting and the occasional bomb…

Lefties Troy Cate (3.81ERA) and Ryan Ketchner (10-4, 3.38 ERA) and Korean-right hander Cha Baek (5-1 3.65 ERA) lead the rotation for the 66ers.

All three are major candidates for promotion, along with OF Greg Jacobs.

As soon as AA Affiliate San Antonio loses Nageotte, Zapp, and Snelling to promotion, the 66ers' phone will begin ringing.

Single-A Wisconsin had a good, solid week at 4-2 and raised their second-half record to 9-14…

1B Jon Nelson, last week's InsideThePark.com Player of the Week, and 3B Matt Hagen led the Timber Rattlers offensively this week.

Nelson leads the team with 54 RBI as Hagen's 16 round-trippers pace the squad and rank third in the Midwest League…

OF T.J. Bohn has had a solid year as well with 10 homers and 50 RBI.

Utility man Corey Harrington (.271, 17 steals) continues to provide the daily spark as the leadoff hitter and the recent emergence of infielder Tim Merritt (267, 22 steals) has given Wisconsin the small-ball style of play needed to compete in the pitchers paradise known as the Midwest League…

The Cheese-heads are not without pitching studs of their own as evidenced by 20-year-old left-hander Bobby Livingston (12-4 2.67 ERA), fellow southpaw Cesar Jimenez (7-5 2.36 ERA) and right-hander T.A. Fulmer (6-5 2.64 ERA)...

The bullpen has found some consistency of late as well with Miguel Martinez (2-1, 1.27 ERA) and Bryan Heaston (1-2, 2.14ERA) leading the way…

Possible promotion candidates include Livingston, and Nelson.

Short-season-A Everett has dug itself a nice spot in the success yard in the M's farm system after a 4-3 week.

With players shuffling in and out, mostly freshly signed draftees and rookie free agents, the Aqua Sox are handling it well and turning many nightly matchups into wins…

Scoring runs was an issue when the season began, but of late the Sox are pushing across the occasional safety and helping out the solid pitching staff.

OF Josh Ellison (.290, 9 steals), OF Chris Colton (3HR, 12RBI, 6 steals) and SS Oz Navarro (.282, 10 steals) lead the way offensively as the pitching continues to carry the club for the most part…

The starting staff is led by left-handers Beau Hintz (2-2, 1.45ERA) and Thomas Oldham (2-0, 1.35ERA), and 17-year-old phenom, righty Felix Hernandez (4-0 0.53ERA)…

Hernandez snapped 90+ MPH pitches into the fifth inning last week…

Everett now sits at 13-12, tied for first in the Northwest League Western Division.

All in all, the organization as a whole has shown typical traits such as inconsistency, player movement and flashes of brilliance. The difference between the Seattle Mariners and many other clubs is that the top prospects are true gems, and most are now playing at the higher levels of the minor leagues.

The experts say, if you want to know how good your Hometown Nine will be in five years, take a look at your current AA team.

Now, I don't know which experts came up with that or when they did, or if it still applies , but San Antonio is full of great young players and could probably switch leagues with Tacoma and win the PCL championship.

For the Mariners' sake, I hope those experts are right.

Jason resides in North Tacoma, Wa. where his father is his best friend, his mother has a better fastball than he does, and his nephew is the only person better suited for stardom. Feedback is always welcome at JasonAChurchill@cs.com.


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