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.
We're getting into the final weeks of the minor league season now and seeing a few teams fight for playoff position while others are just fighting to stay tuned in until the final out of the year. Every player I've ever talked to always says, "it's a grind," and they're talking about this part of the season.
So who's grinding through and pushing toward the end and who's falling flat in that chase? Read on for Three Up, Three Down.
Ketel Marte - SS, Clinton LumberKings: .667/.710/.815 (18-27), 2 2B, 3B, 4 RBI, 4 BB, 1 SO, 3-4 SB
Wow. Marte has been pretty hot with the bat for Clinton for more than two months, but this week was...wow. Seven games, 18 hits. That led the entire minor leagues, obviously, and the crazy part is that he didn't even see a plate appearance in the first game this week, appearing only as a pinch runner. Two four hit games, two three hit games and two two hit games for Marte raised his average .031 and his OPS .073 in the blink of an eye. Marte now has 32 multi-hit games on the season for the LumberKings.
The 19-year-old switch-hitting middle infielder was hitting under .200 as late as May 23rd (.193/.238/.219) but has hit .346/.367/.422 since to raise his average more than .100 points. Marte still doesn't walk and doesn't have power, often purposely approaching at bats to slap the ball the other way, but he has good speed, great contact skills and shows the ability to be a plus defender at short. Signed out of the Dominican in August of 2010, this is his third season in the system but really the first where he seems to be putting everything together into a projectable form. He's down the list on the middle infield depth chart, but he's climbing.
Tyler Smith - SS, Pulaski Mariners: .484/.500/.742 (15-31), 6 2B, 3B, 7 RBI, 1 BB, 6 SO, 2-3 SB
Another young shortstop in the Mariners' system, Smith was taken in the 8th round out of Oregon State this June and has made a huge impact in the Appy League since arriving, helping to lead Pulaski to a 22-9 record in his time with the club. This past week saw him collect the 2nd most hits in the entire minor leagues while cranking out seven extra base hits, driving in seven runs and scoring seven runs. He currently leads the league in average (.364) and ranks 2nd in slugging (.512) and OPS (.928) for Pulaski.
Smith has also gone 16 games since making his last error and has shown very good instincts in the field and on the bases, where he has shown plus speed. He's connected for just one home run as a pro and hit only five in his four years with the Beavers, but he has been a fixture as Pulaski's No. 3 hitter because of the quality at bats he consistently turns in. Cut from the McNamara special "gamer" mold, Smith looks like a classic player who's summed parts for exceed what any single tool would suggest.
Jamal Austin - OF, High Desert Mavericks: .440/.462/.560 (11-25), 2B, 3B, 5 RBI, 1 BB, 0 SO, 1-1 SB
Austin has put together a number of solid stretches this year but just hasn't snuck on this list before today. He made the grade this time by doing just a little bit more, topping off his three multi-hit game week by also not striking out in his 29 plate appearances. The diminutive Austin, who leads the M's system in steals with 32, needs to limit his punchouts while effectively working counts to his advantage in order to maximize his impact, which is realized mainly through his speed. He has his walk rate up to 8.1% this season, a huge improvement over the 5.8% he posted last year.
Austin can really run the ball down in the outfield thanks to his speed and drawing walks and limiting strikeouts (his K% is now down to 11.3% this season) is another strength, but he truly has to max out there as he's somewhat of a flat-footed swinger without even any gap power. His season numbers are starting to be a little stronger on the road of late (up to .256/.311/.333 compared to .335/.398/.387 at home) and he's tallied 15 of his 33 multi-hit efforts on the road. He's also hit very well since the All-Star break (.344/.396/.450) but the 22-year-old right-handed hitting outfielder's defense and speed will drive him as he moves forward in the system.
Austin Wilson - OF, Everett Aquasox: .200/.273/.300 (4-20), 2 2B, 4 RBI, BB, 5 SO
Wilson's slow start has now reached 38 games for Everett and while the tools are indeed tantalizing, the club's 2nd round selection is looking very much like a project at this point. The muscular right-handed hitting outfielder's OPS peaked at .625 so far this year and his season-long effort in that category (.590) ranks as the seventh lowest figure in the Northwest League. Wilson has connected for just one home run and is hitting only .143/.172/.179 in 29 plate appearances against left-handed pitching thus far.
He is right at league average age for the NWL and the tools are very evident, but Wilson needs work and doesn't look like a fast moving prospect. A lot is always made about Stanford products and the way hitting is taught there, but it really appears that more of Wilson's issues at this point are with pitch recognition than anything mechanical. Everett has already qualified for the playoffs so he'll get a little extra time to try and work out of his funk here in 2013.
Carlos Triunfel - SS, Tacoma Rainiers: .227/.261/.273 (5-22), 2B, 2 RBI, BB, 7 SO
Seemingly the longest tenured prospect in the history of baseball, the 23-year-old Triunfel hasn't been able to recapture his early season success since being returned to Tacoma near the end of June. Carlos looked like he had a pretty easy shot to see some extended time in the majors earlier this year, but he couldn't get his feet wet with any success to speak of and found himself back down in Tacoma fairly quickly. A rough week brought his post-demotion line to .233/.262/.330 and perhaps more troubling is that his defense has been costly again of late, too. He botched two balls today which helped lead to Tacoma's loss and needlessly extended what could have been a relatively clean first inning for Taijuan Walker.
He's made improvements virtually across the board offensively from his season with the Rainiers a year ago, but the growth hasn't been enough to get him completely away from his weaknesses. 11 walks, 56 strikeouts and 17 errors in about a half a season sum up Triunfel's struggles perfectly. The M's will need more from Carlos if he's to remain in the plans in any way moving forward.
Jeremy Dobbs - RP, High Desert Mavericks: 0-0, 13.50 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 4 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 4 SO
Dobbs, a 33rd round pick in 2011 by Seattle, had been a pleasant surprise early in the year out of High Desert's bullpen, with a sparkling ERA in the 1's and more than a strikeout an inning. But he fallen on hard times of late, and was a disaster in two relief appearances this past week. He allowed three earned runs in each game, threw three walks in one and three wild pitches in another, allowing 12 of 24 hitters to reach base overall. The 23-year-old's ERA climbed from 2.51 entering the week to 3.72 leaving it and opposing batters are above .200 against Jeremy now for the first time in more than two months.
The left-hander still has walked fewer batters in 25 games and 36 1/3 innings in High-A (10) than he did in four games and 7 1/3 innings in Low-A (12) earlier this season and he's posted a better ERA in Adelanto (3.05) than he has on the road (4.60) in the Cal League and also has a 9.9 SO/9 rate on the year, all very encouraging points. The system is littered with some very effective left-handed relievers right now, and Dobbs' name should be in the conversation for potential bullpen help down the road still.
He hasn't had a lot of big inning weeks which has held him off of being highlighted here, but Pulaski's closer Emilio Pagan (10th round pick this year) has yet to allow an earned run, with 24 strikeouts and an 8.0:1 SO:BB ratio over 16 1/3 innings (12 games) to start his career. The right-hander is very athletic and was a two-way player at Belmont Abbey. Another bullpen arm who we haven't touched on much but who deserves some recognition is Jackson's Stephen Kohlscheen. The 24-year-old righty was shifted full-time to the bullpen last year and has struck out 160 in 123 innings (11.7 per 9) across three levels since the move. He allowed only one earned run in July (0.59 ERA and is holding right-handed hitters under .200 on the year. Bullpens are volatile and relievers can jump levels if they show enough in short stints, meaning that names like these could join the likes of Stephen Pryor, Carter Capps, Logan Bawcom and Dominic Leone as ones to watch next spring.
Check back every Monday to see if any of those names can make the cut for our remaining installments of Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down.
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