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 10th full week of action in the minor leagues was a strong one from the hitting side for the M's organization. Here are the six most worthy mentions in our eyes for this week's installment of Three Up, Three Down.
Jabari Blash - OF, Tacoma Rainiers: .320/.370/.840 (8-25), 2B, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 7 SO
Blash turned in the organization's first 3-homer game of the season last week, blasting three long balls and driving in seven runs this past Tuesday in El Paso. Two of those three were 3-run shots for Blash. He'd add another two-run dinger on Friday, and while his overall numbers aren't great for Tacoma (.207 AVG and 41 strikeouts in 34 games), he's up to nine home runs, 15 extra base hits and 28 RBI in his time in Triple-A, thanks in large part to his hitting with runners in scoring position. The 24-year-old right-handed hitting right fielder is hitting .306/.386/.778 in 44 plate appearances with runners on second and/or third.
Blash's 14 homers combined between Jackson and Tacoma lead the organization and his 48 RBI rank second in the system while his 35 walks are third best. He also has an organization-high 65 strikeouts, though, and the contact issues that seemed to diminish in Double-A late last year carrying into this year are back as a big thorn in his side. Blash has big time power and is a solid-not-great outfielder that could really help in Seattle, but until he makes more progress with pitch recognition and plate discipline in Triple-A, he isn't a real option just yet.
Patrick Kivlehan - 3B, Jackson Generals: .458./533/.625 (11-24), 4 2B, 8 RBI, 5 BB, 4 SO
The first true"prospect" that was promoted in-season for Seattle this year, Kivlehan was hitting just .211/.326/.329 in 22 games with Jackson when this week began, struggling with strikeouts and not really driving the ball consistently. But he picked up four multi-hit games and three multi-RBI games for the Generals this week and reversed a season long trend by also walking more than he struck out in the process. The right-handed hitter continues to rake against left-handers, hitting .317/.379/.583 against them on the year combined now.
After blasting 22 home runs in 102 games with High Desert, Kivlehan has left the yard just twice so far in 28 games with Jackson, but the uptick in contact and discipline the past couple of weeks are a sure sign that more power should be on the way soon. But while I tend to give most infield defenders a pass while playing in Adelanto, Patrick made three more errors this week and now has 10 miscues in 62 chances at third base for Jackson for an unsightly .839 fielding percentage. His actions and range are fringe-average there at best and it's long been the thought that he'll wind up either at first or in an outfield corner. That move could be coming pretty soon.
Brett Shankin - RHP, High Desert Mavericks: 2 G, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 SO, .048 oAVG
Shankin made 44 of his last 48 appearances in Seattle's system as a starter, including eight starts for Double-A Jackson during the middle of last year. Back in High Desert this season, he's pitched exclusively out of the pen. As you'd expect, he's seen a spike in his strikeout rate, and this week he flat out dominated in two outings. He struck out seven of the 11 batters he faced on Tuesday against San Jose and then struck out three more on Sunday, going 3 1/3 and 3 2/3 scoreless in the two games.
On top of the strikeouts (32 in 32 1/3 IP on the year), Shankin has also been a groundball machine for the Mavs as he's running a 1.87 groundout/airout ratio, showing that he has the understanding and the ability to pitch to his environment. The right-hander doesn't have knockout stuff, but with the success he's had as a starter and now the success he's having in the pen and in High Desert, it's clear that he's got enough smarts and stuff to be a quality arm to watch in the system.
Blake Hauser - RHP, HIgh Desert Mavericks: 2 G, 0-0, 10.38 ERA, 2.31 WHIP, 4 1/3 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 2 BB, 2 SO, .381 oAVG
Hauser was a key part of a very memorable Mariners' minor league moment recently, as he closed out the Mavs' combined no-hitter during the previous week, but this latest week was not a good one for the M's 2012 13th round pick. He gave up six hits and surrendered three of Bakersfield's five homers in a 14-8 loss on Monday and allowed four of nine hitters he faced to reach base on Friday. The right-hander had allowed just eight homers in 62 innings coming into this season but he's given up six in 26 2/3 innings this year.
Pitchers can reasonably explain away a part of their struggles with the Mavs to the conditions, and Hauser can at least place some of the blame on the conditions at Heritage Field, as he's pitched to a 3.38 ERA with only one homer allowed in 13 1/3 innings on the road, compared to a 6.91 ERA and five homers given up in 14 1/3 at home this year. Another bright spot is that right-handed hitters have managed just a .215/.297/.369 slash against the power fastball/slider combo that Hauser uses.
Corey Simpson - OF, Clinton Lumber Kings: .190/.182/.476 (4-21), 2 HR, 6 RBI, 0 BB, 10 SO
Simpson -- who it seems was pushed a little too quickly by the M's -- has found himself on the "Down" list a few times already this season. And despite having what was probably his best game as a pro this past week, knocking two homers and collecting three hits against Kane County on Friday, the contact issues remained a glaring problem for the M's 2013 6th round pick. Four more multi-strikeout games brought Simpson's figure to 23 such games out of 39 games played for the LumberKings.
The 20-year-old Simpson, who was a catcher much of his prep career, has played fairly well in the outfield for Clinton so far, even though he's clearly bulked up past his listed weight of 210. A 39.7% strikeout rate isn't good for anyone's confidence though, and it would be a surprise if Simpson doesn't find himself on Everett's roster once the AquaSox get underway this week as he has the 24th lowest OPS in the Midwest League, too.
Scott DeCecco - LHP, High Desert Mavericks: 1 G, 0-1, 54.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP, 1 1/3 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 2 HR, 2 BB, 1 SO, .600 oAVG
After three impressive starts for High Desert in 2013, DeCecco is having a really rough year for the Mavs in 2014. He was shelled for five runs in his first appearance of the season (in relief) and owned a 10.13 ERA in three games out of the pen before being shifted to the rotation. He hasn't fared much better there, however, and his start this past week marked the fifth time in 10 starts that he's allowed four earned runs or more. DeCecco faced twelve batters and got four outs, allowing 6 hits -- including two home runs -- and two walks in an 11-8 loss.
He's now 2-5 with a 6.88 ERA, 1.83 WHIP and .325 opponents' batting average in 53 2/3 innings for High Desert, and the 23-year-old lefty's career MiLB ERA now sits at 5.16 in 259 2/3 innings in the low minors. Seattle's 21st round pick in 2012, DeCecco's 11.4 H/9 is the 5th worst among starters in the California League and his 5.0 BB/9 is easily a career worst. Not a good recipe for success.
There you have the best and worst from week 10 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.
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