Each Monday during the 2013 minor league season, I will again give our readers a rundown of the best and worst from the minor league week that was within the Seattle Mariners system. The goal is to concentrate only on true prospects (age 26 and under and not on the big league roster), but if any player has an exceptionally noteworthy good (or bad) week, he could appear here as well. 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.
July started off with the big league club having a nice road trip, lead by several players who started this year in the minor leagues for the Mariners. The players left on the farm are working hard to try and be in that next wave of promotions that can help at the big league level.
A top prospect, a new face and a familiar name stood out this past week while three players with strikeout issues are featured on the downside. Without further delay, here is this week's -- Three Up, Three Down.
Taijuan Walker - SP, Tacoma Rainiers: 1-0, 0.90 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 12 SO, .211 oAVG
Triple-A hasn't yet been much of a challenge for Walker, the 2nd youngest player to reach the level so far in 2013. He's allowed only one earned run total in his three starts at the level and continues to show the improved command that earned him his promotion out of Jackson with 16 strikeouts to just five walks in those three starts. He also continues to get a lot of ground ball outs and he's allowed just four extra base hits in 64 batters faced by keeping his fastball down in the zone and incorporating his off-speed pitches in pitcher counts.
In spite of his overwhelming success this year, those secondary offerings do still need some polish in the minor leagues and Walker -- not yet on the 40-man roster -- does have an innings limit likely in his not-too-distant future, so a call up to Seattle seems unlikely in 2013. Still, the progress he has made since this time a year ago is very encouraging for his future with the M's.
Ty Kelly - 2B/3B, Tacoma Rainiers: .545/.615/.955 (12-22), 3 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 BB, 3 SO
Now THAT is how you introduce yourself to a new league and new team. Kelly led the PCL in OPS (1.570) and a number of other stats in his first six games with Tacoma after coming over from Baltimore in the Alex Liddi deal. Playing both at Liddi's old spot on the hot corner and at second base for the Rainiers the switch-hitting 24-year-old showed a good eye, a line drive bat and even some unexpected pop for Tacoma during his first week in the organization.
All of that success could earn Ty the PCL Player of the Week Award in his first action of his career in the league. Kelly's statistical history and prospect profile from Baltimore suggest that the power he showed in week one isn't likely to continue, but plate discipline and a high average paired with defensive flexibility could make Kelly interesting over the final months of 2013 for Seattle.
Gabriel Guerrero - OF, Clinton Lumber Kings: .538/.500/.577 (14-26), 2B, 6 RBI, 4 SO, 2-3 SB
Guerrero has proven to be very streaky this season in Clinton and, as such, it should be no surprise that this is his fourth time highlighted in this weekly piece -- twice on each side of the ledger now. He collected four multi-hit games and is riding a 12-game hitting streak which has raised his AVG more than 30 points and his OPS better than 75. He remains homerless, but the 19-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder is collecting extra base hits with 17 doubles and two triples to his name.
Still very thin and very raw, the strikeouts remain Guerrero's biggest challenge, but he's seemed to make some strides in that regard as he has only six during his hitting streak after having 63 in his first 65 games. The ceiling is high for Guerrero, and I feel that the home runs will start to come soon for him.
Ramon Morla - 3B, Jackson Generals: .125/.192/.167 (3-24), 2B, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 13 SO
Morla made a quick impact in Jackson following his promotion as he homered in his first game and drove in seven runs in his first five contests with the Generals, but he's struggled with contact all along, and this past week was especially bad. The right-handed hitting third baseman struck out 11 times the first three days of July and 13 times on the week, bringing his total in Double-A to an ugly 26 Ks in 15 games.
He has continued to drive in runs and is hitting .300/.364/.600 with runners in scoring position since his promotion, but Morla (23) needs to improve his plate discipline and his defense at third base in order to stay on the prospect radar in this, his seventh season with the Mariners organization.
Denny Almonte - OF, Jackson Generals: .100/.143/.200 (2-20), 2 2B, RBI, BB, 14 SO
14 strikeouts in 21 plate appearances really stands out when looking through the weekly stats, even when it is Almonte. Always a free swinger with good tools but an approach that seems to lack a plan, the now right-handed only hitting 24-year-old's latest bad week brought his season totals (combined in Tacoma and Jackson) to .165/.227/.303 with and eye-popping 105 strikeouts in 62 games and 218 at bats. Interestingly, Almonte has struggled more against left-handed pitching -- the side he has always hit from against those pitchers -- than right-handed pitching since ditching switch-hitting. What that means is, simply, that Almonte is getting worse.
Denny teased with a blistering hot start to his 2012 season in Double-A Jackson after a very strong showing in the Australian Baseball League during the off-season, but 2013 has been an unmitigated disaster for the former 2nd round pick. A very likable kid who has power, speed, a strong arm and good range in center field, Almonte could be nearing his run with the Mariners here in 2013 with weeks like these as they just haven't been able to get through to him.
Phillips Castillo - OF, Everett Aquasox: .080/.148/.120 (2-25), 2B, BB, 10 SO
Castillo was here just a few weeks ago for many of the same reasons as he's here now -- namely no hits and lots of Ks. He had the 2nd worst OPS (.268) in the Northwest League last week and struck out 10 more times, bringing his season total to 29 -- 2nd most in the league -- in just 91 plate appearances. I'll remind again that he is still very young at just 19, but the plate discipline issues are making it very hard for him to tap into the potential in his bat.
Castillo is drawing walks at a decent rate (8.8%) and he has collected six extra base hits for Everett in his 21 games, but the struggles in pitch recognition, plate discipline and contact practically negate everything that he has going for him. He's young with a long ways to go, but improvement on the field in 2013 is important for Phillips.
A few more players of note got back in to action this past week as Jesus Montero and Jordan Shipers each started a rehab stint in the AZL. Former intriguing draft pick Cavan Cohoes got into his first action of the year in Peoria, too, and although he figures to stay there he is interesting to keep an eye on as he has among the best speed in the organization. Danny Hultzen had another "shoulder tightness" episode this week and the Mariners' 40-man roster shuffle continued as well. Always plenty to keep up on, so come back next Monday for another look at who makes the cut for Three Up, Three Down.
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