As we've done on Monday all season, here again is 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.
Players are moving around a lot and being challenged late in the year for the M's; some are excelling and some are struggling. In their last chance this season -- and in some cases maybe their last chance, period -- to impress upon Seattle's Player Development staff, these final few weeks are important even for the teams who are out of their post-season races.
Let's get down to who is working to improve their stock and who is struggling with this week's Three Up, Three Down.
Jabari Blash - OF, Jackson Generals: .500/.692/.833 (12-24), 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 14 BB, 4 SO
Blash, who leads all Seattle minor leaguers with 22 home runs, added two to that column this week in his third week in Double-A, but more impressively he added 14 walks in his nine games. The Generals -- well out of playoff contention -- aren't loving their schedule right now, but for players like Blash the opportunity to cram a lot of exposure to a higher level of play in is huge. He reached base via hit or walk at least once in all nine of Jackson's games this past week and raised his OPS from .773 to 1.059 in the process.
Blash, who has tremendous strength and a good eye, has already set his personal best in home runs in a season and it looks like he'll draw 60-plus walks for the 3rd straight year, too. His .270 average overall and .525 SLG also represent the best marks of his career and the 2010 8th round pick is closing in on a number of other personal bests. The 6-foot-5 native of the U.S. Virgin Islands has a lot of tools and as he's climbing up the levels and pitching/umpiring is getting better, it appears to be helping him with his pitch selection and (lack of) aggression. He's still rather raw for his age but he's worth tracking because the physical tools are impressive.
Austin Wilson - OF, Everett Aquasox: .417/.462/.958 (10-24), 2 2B, 3B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 2 BB, 5 SO
Wilson, Seattle's 2nd round pick in this past June's draft, is another physical specimen who the club has high hopes for. He struggled early this season for Everett with contact and quality of contact, but he's turned it on since returning from a minor injury to his quad held him out for a few games early this month. He's hitting .302/.351/.642 in 14 games since that time and is looking like the steal that many thought he was when the M's grabbed him 49th overall in the draft. The 6-foot-4 outfielder put it all together this last week in banging out six extra base hits and slugging .958, bringing his season OPS to .708 -- his best mark at any point as a pro so far.
Everyone wants to talk about the problem with Stanford hitters, but many succeed. The early signs of adjustment -- not only with his swing, but to the way pitchers are working him -- that Wilson is showing bode well for his future. Having seen him in person a number of times in Everett already, the 21-year-old still rates highly for me in terms of the best prospects in the organization because of his bat speed, strength and patience. He should get challenged in '14, possibly with an assignment closer to home in High Desert.
Isaiah Yates - OF, Pulaski Mariners: .409/.458/.955 (9-22), 4 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 11 SO, 3-4 SB
Yates turned in a dynamite week for Pulaski in leading the Appalachian League in SLG and OPS (1.413). He doubled his season HR output and cranked out seven extra base hits after having just 12 in 41 games entering the week. His season slash is now up to .278/.362/.449 and the outfielder still a week shy of his 19th birthday is starting to build an interesting profile for himself.
Yates, who bats right and throws left, was plucked out of Clovis East HS in California in the 17th round by Seattle in 2012. He showed some ability in the Arizona League last year, showing extra base power, patience (30 walks) and some speed (six triples, six steals) while manning center field for the Peoria M's. He's continued that in 2013 in a more challenging league and added in some experience in the outfield corners, too. He's fourth in both plate appearances (200) and OPS (.811) for Pulaski and looks like he'll get a shot at playoff baseball this season. He appears to be on track to be in Everett for 2014.
Steven Proscia - 1B, Jackson Generals: .129/.156/.129 (4-31), BB, 12 SO, SB
Proscia's return trip to the Southern League has started off even worse than his initial assignment there this season went. After hitting .306/.371/.565 in three weeks in the California League and only striking out in 16.1% of his plate appearances, Proscia came back to Jackson and has proceeded to hit .189/.228/.358 with a 37.1% K rate. His numbers from this past week even gtot a boost when he turned in a 3-hit game (all singles) on Thursday, but it's starting to look more and more like a lost year for Proscia.
After leading the organization in home runs (28) and RBI (103) a year ago, the former Virginia Cavaliers first baseman is running a .194/.242/.304, 7 HR, 25 RBI line in 83 games for the Generals this season. There is power in there, but the pitch recognition and bat speed are killing him right now. A lot of adjustments are needed to bring him around to a point where he can handle Double-A pitching. He'll get a shot to repeat there next season.
Ji-Man Choi - 1B, Tacoma Rainiers: .048/.130/.048 (1-21), BB, 3 SO, HBP
Choi has started slowly at each of his three stops in the M's system this year but his coronation to the PCL has been the most anemic. Just one hit in his first six games even though he's making good contact with only three strikeouts. He ended up with a 1.045 OPS in High Desert and a .862 OPS in Jackson, but his early Triple-A drought has brought his season OPS down to .910.
The lefty swinging Choi, 22, still figures to be given some serious consideration by Seattle as their Minor League Player of the Year as he's in the Top-10 in the organization in almost every hitting category, but it would be nice to see him handle Triple-A a bit over this last week and possibly earn an assignment to the Arizona Fall League.
James Paxton - SP, Tacoma Rainiers: 0-1, 15.43 ERA, 2.36 WHIP, 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, SO, .333 oAVG
Paxton's up-and-down season now includes his worst start of the year this past week. It, of course, followed up two very solid outings (13 IP, 4 ER), but the lefty's August ERA of 6.94 is now the worst he's posted in any month this year. Following an outstanding July that had me pushing for a call up for James, he's walked 17 hitters and struck out just 13 in 23 1/3 August innings.
It seemed like he ran out of gas during the AFL a year ago and he has accumulated the 3rd most innings in the system this year for Seattle and easily his highest pro total with 135 2/3, but shouldn't the 24-year-old be stronger than this by now? More questions around Paxton after what has been a disappointing campaign when judged on whole.
While the three athletic outfielders highlighted above certainly deserve their spots on the list, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the pitching performances of Taijuan Walker, Nate Koneski and Eddie Campbell from this week.
Walker righted himself again after a few less than perfect statistical outings recently by turning in two wins and striking out 15 over 11 innings in which he allowed just one run to bring his Triple-A ERA back down to 3.61 in 11 starts. He also started getting a lot of ground ball outs again, running a 12:1 ratio in those games. Koneski dazzled in his second start for Everett, striking out nine and walking only one in five one-hit innings to earn his first win for the Frogs. The lefty had been touched up to the tune of an 8.40 ERA, 1.93 WHIP and .361 oAVG before that outing. And Campbell did Koneski one better in turning in the best start for the week in the organization: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 SO. Campbell now has 66 strikeouts while just 58 hitters have reached base in his 48 1/3 innings for Pulaski.
Be sure to come back and check in next Monday to see who made the cut -- good and bad -- in the expanded end of season edition of the best and worst in the Seattle Mariners organization this year.
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