Every Monday we present a rundown of the best and worst performances from the past week within the Seattle Mariners' organization. The goal is to keep you up to date on your favorite M's prospects while also shining a little brighter light on some of the lesser known standouts in the system, spreading the coverage around and highlighting those that deserve it most.
With all of the recent MLB graduations, Seattle's system isn't nearly as top-heavy in talent as it has been in years past. But that means that there is more to be learned on some of the better prospects in the organization. Three Up, Three Down should help with that learning, covering players in their age-26 or younger season who still have MLB rookie status.
The Mariners had a fantastic week from one affiliate in particular as the High Desert Mavericks threw a combined no-hitter on Wednesday night. But there were other feats worthy of attention this week, too. Here are the six most worthy mentions in our eyes.
Tyler Pike - LHP, High Desert Mavericks: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 6 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO, .000 oAVG
Throwing a no-hitter in the minor leagues is rare. Throwing a no-hitter in the California League is more rare. Throwing a no-hitter in Heritage Field at Stater Bros. Stadium in Adelanto, one of the best hitting environments in all of baseball? That had never been done before. But last Wednesday night, Pike -- who had been struggling in recent starts -- started and threw the first six innings as the Mavericks did just that. They no-hit the Rancho Cucamongo Quakes, the Dodgers affiliate and a team that sports a few very good hitting prospects, including Kyle Seager's youngest brother, Corey. After allowing seven earned runs in each of his last two starts, Pike cruised through Rancho's lineup, striking out a season high eight and walking a season low-tying two while working through his six innings right at 80 pitches.
He didn't get the win as the Mavs didn't score until the 8th inning and he sits at just 2-2 with a 4.88 ERA and 1.54 WHIP on the year, but the 20-year-old lefty is allowing just a .219 batting average against and has held right-handers to a .595 OPS in 123 plate appearances on the year. The real culprit to his so-so before his no-no has been command; Pike has walked 35 in 48 innings -- 6.6-per-nine. Pitching in the Cal League can do that to pitchers, so seeing how Pike follows up his great performance in terms of control can be a big key to how he's viewed heading into next year for the M's.
D.J. Peterson - 3B, High Desert Mavericks: .467/.515/.867 (14-30), 6 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 3 BB, 8 SO
Peterson, who started hot then cooled before spending a week on the shelf with a hamstring injury, has been one of the best hitters in the Cal League since his return. He got extra base hits in all seven games this week with multiple base hits in the last five. D.J. now ranks in the top-5 in the organization in most offensive categories and his 26 extra base hits lead all of Seattle's minor leaguers. The right-handed hitter has his 2014 slash line up to .305/.355/.537 now, very close to the .303/.365/.553 combined line he put up last year in the lower minors. And after a somewhat ugly start with the glove, he's also made just two errors in his last 15 defensive starts.
His strikeout rate has jumped from 18.6% to 21.8% while his walk rate has dropped from 8.7% to 6.4%, but his extra base hit rate has climbed slightly, from 10.9% to 11.8%. Some of that can surely be attributed to playing in High Desert, as he's hitting .380/.417/.650 at home, but Peterson has hit half of his 10 home runs on the year on the road. The power is legit. Once he makes some minor improvements in plate discipline, Double-A will be calling in earnest to get the M's top hitting prospect moved up the ladder.
Grady Wood - RHP, High Desert Mavericks: 0-0, 1 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO, .056 oAVG
Wood was a 10th round pick by Seattle out of Western Oregon in 2012 that has consistently been putting up strong numbers for the club. The sidearming right-hander mowed through Rancho and Bakersfield in three inning outings this past week, allowing just two of the 20 batters he faced reach base and striking out eight in the process. He leads all M's relievers in strikeouts (and ranks 12th in the organization overall) with 37 in 31 innings and has allowed only five extra base hits -- all doubles -- in 128 batters faced on the year. Wood has gone 1 2/3 or more in 13 of his 14 appearances and he's running a 50.6% groundball rate and 1.52 GO/AO ratio on the season, too.
While his stuff isn't overpowering, his arm angle creates a lot of movement and deception. As such, it should be no surprise that right-handers have managed just a .183/.210/.233 slash off of Grady. The 10.7 SO/9 is a bit surprising, but the ground ball tendencies seem to indicate that Wood could still be surviving just fine even if that were to tail off a bit. And the fact that right-handers have a 34.4% strikeout rate speaks to the level of deception that Wood works with. He's 24 in High-A, but it seems likely that he could be moved up before the current season is out and could be a dark horse to turn into a valuable bullpen arm.
Corey Simpson - OF, Clinton Lumber Kings: .087/.125/.087 (2-23), RBI, BB, 9 SO
The M's 6th round pick out of high school last June as a 19-year-old, Simpson showed a lot of pop in his brief AZL debut last year, but even that came with a 25.5% strikeout rate. He has 134 plate appearances for Clinton this year and is up to 52 punch outs already, nine this past week. He's struck out in all but three games in which he's come to the plate three or more times and has struck out two-plus times in 19 of the 33 games he's played in so far in 2014.
Simpson has big time power, with strength throughout his maturing frame already, but it rarely shows in games -- just one homer and seven extra base hits -- because his approach is lacking. One good sign is that he's crushing left-handed pitching: .375/.423/.542 in his 26 plate appearances. Of course that means that the struggles against righties -- .190/.243/.250 -- are that much more troubling. Corey is young and has tools that warrant being excited over, and no doubt he showed something to the M's talent evaluators for them to push him past Pulaski and Everett, but there is a lot of development left ahead for him.
Abraham Almonte - OF, Tacoma Rainiers: .185/.214/.222 (5-27), 2B, RBI, BB, 9 SO
The Mariners starting center fielder for the first 23 games of the MLB season has been down in Tacoma for almost a month now, and the struggles with plate discipline -- which was one of his biggest assets a season ago -- have continued. Almonte has struck out 28 times in 25 games for the Rainiers, nine this past week, and is hitting just .204/.252/.262 in 111 plate appearances for the Triple-A club. Almonte, of course, seemed to come out of nowhere last year, earning an early season promotion to Tacoma and hitting .314/.403/.491 for the Rainiers in 94 games before closing out the year with Seattle.
The 25-year-old Almonte has been passed up on the depth chart by James Jones in Seattle now, and if the M's do anything in the second half an addition to the outfield would seem like the most likely move, pushing Almonte even further down. He does still have tools and the front office and manager Lloyd McClendon seem to like him, but barring injuries it appears unlikely that Abraham would be back up in Seattle anytime soon, especially considering his consistent struggles.
Dylan Unsworth - SP, High Desert Mavericks: 0-1, 15.43 ERA, 2.71 WHIP, 7 IP, 16 H, 12 ER, 3 HR, 3 BB, 4 SO, .432 oAVG
While Wood is having a lot of success in High Desert without possessing an overpowering arsenal, Unsworth -- who has enjoyed a lot of success in the past by hitting his spots and working ahead -- has been eaten up by the Cal League. He made two poor starts this past week and has now allowed nine homers and 28 extra base hits in his 11 starts on the season. The damage has been done by both right-handers (.336/.362/.523) and left-handers (.330/.369/.583) against the right-handed Unsworth, and he's even walked 10 batters in his 53 innings after walking just two in 14 starts a season ago.
Unsworth's command has always been his primary ticket, but the thinly built South African has a solid fastball that touches 90 and decent secondary offerings. Still, when so much of a pitcher's success depends on location and they're thrown into the Cal League, that can get away from them a bit. It's a scary place to challenge hitters. Unsworth has a great mental approach and I expect him to make improvements as the season carries on.
That does it for the recap of week nine in the minors for the Mariners. Check back in with us next Monday for more Three Up, Three Down, and stick with SeattleClubhouse throughout the year for reports from all of the Mariners' affiliates.
Looking for more Mariners news, articles and player interviews? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse site Editor Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.