With two months down in the minor league season and the Foreign Rookie League Affiliates playing for the M's, it's time to check in on the top players from each level for the month of May with the organization.
Greifer Andrade - IF: .356/.412/.400, 2 2B, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 5 SO, 3 SB
Andrade, who was considered the prize signing by Seattle during the 2013 international free agent period out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old, is finally playing games with the organization in Venezuela, and he's started off getting some good results with the bat. The right-handed hitter has five multi-hit games and is sporting a strong .356/.412/.400 slash overall through 12 games. Greifer showcased for MLB teams as an outfielder but he's played shortstop nine times and third base three times so far in 2014 for the VSL M's. He's made nine errors in those 12 games in the infield, however, and it appears that the bat is ahead of the glove at this point. He may end up back in the outfield eventually, but his bat is why the M's signed him.
Andrade is one of the younger players in the small Venezuelan League but he's hitting with the top few and showing good plate discipline so far in his debut pro season. He'll definitely remain in Venezuela throughout the remainder of this season and could even find himself repeating the league in 2015, but he is a talented prospect that the Mariners value and it's good to see him get off to a strong start with the bat.
Zach Shank - IF: .307/.371/.443, 4 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 7 BB, 15 SO, 2 SB
Shank isn't the first name that pops out at you when looking over Clinton's roster. Having graduated from Marist in 2013 and coming into pro ball without much fanfare, it's easy to overlook him. But the former 28th round pick who ended his debut season with Clinton in 2013 ended May of this year on a 7-game hitting streak, wrapping up his best month as a pro, as he hit over .300 and played nearly every day for the LumberKings. In doing so he became a fixture at or near the top of the lineup, producing extra base hits, showing strong plate discipline and scoring runs like a top-of-the-order/spark-plug type should do.
Shank's also played every defensive position besides catcher for Clinton, committing just three errors on the year while moving all over the infield and outfield. Zach didn't blow anyone away with his performance in May, but his consistency was a big part of the club's winning month. "He's a glue guy," Clinton's announcer Cheyne Reiter told me, adding "He just does the little things to help the club win. He battles at the plate and even though he isn't the fastest guy, he's the best baserunner on the team. There's no way this club is over .500 without him."
High Desert Mavericks
D.J. Peterson - 3B: .322/.376/.612, 11 2B, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 9 BB, 30 SO, 3 SB
Peterson missed a little more than a week in late-April with a hamstring and didn't really get going with the bat before that, ending April with a .724 OPS in the hitter friendly Cal League. But the 12th overall pick in last June's draft took off as May got going, and racked up some organization-best stats in a number of categories. And he wasn't just taking advantage of his home park, as he cranked half of his homers during the month on the road, sticking with the trend he's had all season in the power game.
All told during May, D.J. had 13 multi-hit games, eight multi-RBI games and two multi-homer games for the Mavericks. He led all Mariners' minor leaguers in AB (121), H (39), R (24), 2B, HR, RBI, XBH (19), TB (74), AVG, SLG & OPS (.988) for the month, moving himself to the head of the stat sheet for a number of those categories on the year now. Peterson is the type of hitter that really lifts fly balls, so while his line drive rate isn't spectacular (7.8%) so far this season, he's hitting 42.9% of his balls put in play were fly balls to the outfield -- the second highest number in the Cal League. The walks and strikeouts aren't quite where you'd like to see them yet for D.J., as he's showing almost identical plate discipline numbers this season to what he posted in Clinton to finish up 2013, but he's doing a lot of damage when he puts the ball in play.
Dan Paolini - 1B/OF: .284/.402/.474, 7 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 17 BB, 11 SO
He didn't put up overly flashy numbers, but Paolini turned in a very solid month for the Generals, collecting hits in 20 of the 26 games for the month and leading the club in OPS (.875), RBI and walks and tying for the most XBH (11) and homers. The M's 10th round selection in 2011 now has as many walks as strikeouts on the season (27) to go along with 20 extra base hits. Promoted to Jackson last July after hitting very well in High Desert to start 2013, Paolini managed just a .522 OPS in 31 games. But this season in 45 games he's returned to the type of hitter he showed to be in 2012 and in that 2013 first half.
Paolini, who was a second baseman in college at Siena and in the early going of his pro career, is a bit of a man without a position these days, fluctuating between first base, an outfield corner and designated hitter. At an even 6-foot, without plus speed or athleticism and with an average arm, nearly all of his value is tied to his bat. That said, I've heard that he's played decently in the outfield for Jackson this year. Paolini has more home run power in him than the four he's hit this season and that tool will have to play more for him to get any serious attention, but he's a solid bat in the M's system.
Jordan Pries - RHP: 2-2, 2.48 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 5 G, 29 IP, 24 H, 8 ER, 12 BB, 21 SO, .222 oAVG
Pries, who was Seattle's 30th round pick in the 2011 draft after wrapping up a three-year stint as a weekend starter at Stanford, has been turning in impressive results since he first toed the rubber in the M's system. And in May he did it in Triple-A, throwing four games in the month (and five in a row overall for Tacoma) where he allowed zero or one earned run. In fact, Pries has gone 6-plus innings and allowed two earned runs or less in six of his 11 starts between Jackson and Tacoma this season. While he was much better for High Desert last season than his overall numbers show, he accomplished that type of outing just five times in 23 starts in 2013. His 2.79 ERA ranks 7th in the PCL among pitchers with nine or more starts this season and his 7.0 hits allowed per nine is 5th.
Coming from a family with deep ties to the game -- both his great uncle and grandfather made impacts at the MLB level -- and from a program that's produced quite a few big leaguers and highly-regarded prospects, Pries' has been flying under the radar in Seattle's organization. He pitches with a standard four-pitch mix, with a fastball at 90-91 and a plus changeup as his primary weapons. He's held left-handed hitters to a .185/.292/.261 slash so far with Tacoma and a .167/.262/.259 slash overall this year. Pries could be close to getting consideration for a big league spot start should a need occur this year, and he's certainly put himself on the radar for future seasons.
There are four more months to go in the minor league season, and we'll check in after each of them wraps in this manner with our pick for player of the month at each level throughout the year. And -- of course -- will have continuing coverage from players at all levels throughout the season. So stay in touch with SeattleClubhouse for thorough coverage throughout the year.
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