Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down

The first week of July -- and the 14th week of the minor league season -- had some impressive performances from some in the M's system. Those, and some not so impressive ones, are covered here in this week's Three Up, Three Down.

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.

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.

With so much prospect movement and a handful of key injuries in the system, some less familiar names are getting more of a chance to start and show what they've got. A few of those players are seizing their opportunities as you'll see below. Here now is our 14th installment of Three Up, Three Down.

THREE UP

Chantz Mack - OF, Clinton LumberKings: .519/.606/.704 (14-27), 2B, 2 3B, 3 RBI, 6 BB, 3 SO, 1 SB
Mack has bounced around to start his career with the Mariners, already playing at five levels in his 98 pro games to date, filling in in the outfield whenever and wherever needed. The 2013 29th round pick has hit along the way, too. But these 43 games that he's spent with Clinton are the longest and most productive stint he's enjoyed anywhere so far. He ended the week with three straight multi-hit games, going 9-for-13 against Kane County, who is "hands down the best staff in the league," according to Clinton's Cheyne Reiter, and hit over .500 with a 1.310 OPS in Clinton's seven games.

Mack's played all three outfield positions for Clinton and hit everywhere except first in the order so far. On top of hitting .299/.370/.455, he also has a solid 9.2% walk rate and a fantastic 9.8% strikeout rate. Mack is hitting .450 with a 1.306 OPS with runners in scoring position and is hitting .403 in 17 games since the Midwest League All-Star break. He isn't likely to develop into a big league All-Star, but Mack is the type of player that stays in an organization for a long time.

Zack Littell - RHP, Pulaski Mariners: 1-1, 2.77 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 13 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 15 SO, .149 oAVG
Littell was Seattle's 11th round pick in 2013 and the first high school pitcher they took in that draft. He didn't do much to put himself on the radar in the AZL last year but he pitched well down in instructs last fall and has started the 2014 season in Pulaski out very nicely with his peripheral numbers. He made two starts this past week and went 6 innings in the first and 7 in the second. That second start is really what landed him here on the "Up" side for the week as Zack allowed only three singles and struck out a career high nine while allowing just one earned run and not walking a batter. Littell has in fact walked just two batters in his 22 1/3 innings so far this season.

The right-hander has held right-handed hitters to a .196/.250/.255 slash in56 plate appearances so far on the year and his combo of a consistent 90-92 mph fastball (that can touch higher), 12-6 curve and solid changeup has kept all hitters off balance for the most part. Just 18-years-old, Littell has a solid 6-foot-3 frame and good arm action that suggests there could be a lot more to come from his arm as he matures. With his performance this past week, it's easy to see the reasons why Seattle liked him in the draft last year, and easy to see that he could turn into a name to watch down the road for the M's.

Dan Paolini - OF/DH, Jackson Generals: .429/.500/.762 (9-21), 4 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 6 SO
Paolini isn't having the flashiest of seasons for the Generals, but his bat has been a consistent contributor in the middle of Jackson's lineup as he's hit 3rd, 4th or 5th in 58 of his 71 games. He hit his first homer in 32 games Sunday night but he leads the team in RBI with 41 and walks with 36 while also leading the team and ranking second in the entire organization with 24 doubles. Four of those doubles came this past week, during which he also picked up three multi-hit games, including his first 3-hit contest of the season.

Paolini has finished each of the last two seasons in the system with exactly 18 home runs and 73 RBI, and while the home run pace has fallen off quite a bit, he's easily on pace to surpass his career best of 27 doubles. A second baseman when drafted, Paolini has improved defensively in the outfield and has also made strides at first base. But his combination of patience and extra base power at the plate is his key as a player.

THREE DOWN

Luiz Gohara - LHP, Everett Aquasox: 0-1, 19.29 ERA, 3.43 WHIP, 2 1/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO, .462 oAVG
There are only a couple of handfuls of players outside of the complex leagues younger than Gohara in organized ball right now, but the fact that he struggled in his Northwest League debut was still a bit of a surprise. After two impressive starts in the AZL as he built his arm strength back up after being shut down early in 2013, the big lefty from Brazil allowed eight of the 15 Hillsboro hitters to reach base in his first game with Everett on Wednesday. He only allowed one extra base hit and kept the ball on the ground for the most part, but he did throw a wild pitch and allow a stolen base while he was in there, exiting in the third trailing 6-0. The AquaSox -- who have not played good ball so far this year under Dave Valle -- did come back and make a game of it, but they couldn't get out of the hole that Gohara dug for them and he was saddled with the loss.

Despite the rough outing, Luiz is among the highest ceiling arms in the system, with a mature frame and an arsenal as a 17-year-old that suggests great things could be in store. He was very strong in Peoria before the poor start with Everett and is said to listen and learn very well, so hopefully he'll get himself acclimated to the more advanced approaches of Northwest League hitters and fair better in his second shot on Tuesday night at home for the Frogs.

Ji-Man Choi - 1B, Tacoma Rainiers: .130/.167/.174 (3-23), 2B, 2 RBI, BB, 6 SO
Despite a 2-hit game Sunday night, Choi still posted the second lowest OPS in the organization for the week and he struck out an uncharacteristically high six times, too -- twice in three straight games. After a breakout 2013 campaign at three stops for the Mariners, Choi started the season on fire, but he was hit with a 50-game PED suspension in mid-April and is just 10-for-51 in the 16 games since he's returned to Tacoma from that setback. He's been displaced a bit by rehabbing big leaguers -- even playing five games in left field as a result -- and now with Justin Smoak assigned to Tacoma he figures to potentially lose more ABs there. And unless he starts hitting, he has very little chance of it going any other way.

Choi has gone hitless in 12 of the 26 games that he's played in for Tacoma this year. He also has seven multi-hit games and continued to show the solid plate discipline that's been part of his profile forever when this season began. But he's drawn just one walk over his last 13 games and has just five extra base hits in his 98 plate appearances for Tacoma this season after drawing 63 walks and pounding out 60 extra base hits in 2013. The PED slip is a big strike against him and if he doesn't pick it up with the bat it isn't out of the realm of possibilities that he could end up losing his precious 40-man roster spot at some point before 2015.

Isaiah Yates - OF, Clinton LumberKings: .130/.200/.174 (3-23), 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 8 SO
Yates was decent in Arizona in 2012 after being selected in the 12th round by Seattle and had a very strong second half for Pulaski in 2013, so when he got off to a hot start in rehab action in Peoria again this year, the move to Clinton was natural. But the right-handed hitting Yates has found the jump a real challenge, and strikeouts have been a big issue for him so far. He struck out eight times in 25 plate appearances this past week and has gone down on strikes 11 times through his first 10 games at the level. He's a solid outfield defender and has plus speed, but he isn't getting on base enough for Clinton yet to make any contribution on offense.

Not a big power hitter, Isaiah needs the contact to be there for his gap-to-gap line drive approach to have an impact. Still almost two months shy of his 20th birthday, Yates has a history of contact issues as he posted a 28.3% strikeout rate in Pulaski last year. The Midwest League is a pitching league and a tough place for a teenager to succeed, but Yates still has a chance to do that if he can get a hold on the plate discipline issues.

. . . . . . . . .

There you have what we see as the best and worst from week 14 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.


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