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.
There have been some fantastic individual pitching performances of late, but this past week had two of the more high profile arms in Seattle's system struggle once again. That and more is covered in our 18th installment of Three Up, Three Down.
Marcus Littlewood - C, Clinton LumberKings: .444/.600/.778 (8-18), 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, 7 BB, 3 SO, 2 SB
Littlewood has been in Clinton so long that he probably knows the town about as good as some of the locals by now. But Seattle's 2nd round pick way back in 2010 is putting together his best season for the LumberKings in 2014, and this past week continued to build on the success he has been having. Reaching base 60% of the time while knocking out three extra base hits and extending his hitting streak to 11 games this past week got Littlewood's season average back up over .250 after a period of struggle in June and July that dropped his OPS down well under .700 for a time. The switch-hitting catcher is back up to .740 with that stat now, and his overall game is once again starting to look like that of a former high draft pick.
The other side of the equation with Littlewood, of course, was the position switch from shortstop to catcher. That is going very well, too, and the 22-year-old very much looks the part as he's thrown out 38% of would be basestealers while handling the pitching staff, and being great at the mechanical side of the position, too. As a hitter, the power has tailed off since he left Everett, but the walks are still there. Marcus has a BB% of 12.8% this season, down from the 15.6% he posted last year, but his strikeout rate has fallen from 22.7% in 2013 all the way down to 16.5% in 2014. A huge improvement. Littlewood is still in Low-A at 22, but don't let that fool you -- he is still definitely a prospect to watch.
Chantz Mack - OF, Clinton LumberKings: .355/.382/.710 (11-31), 3 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 6 SO
Mack has been well-traveled in his M's minor league career after entering pro ball as Seattle's 29th round pick in 2013. Mack has played all three outfield spots and with five of Seattle's affiliates in his 121 game career so far. This past week was spent entirely with Clinton once again, and it produced the most RBI in the system while leading the surging Clinton offense. Mack's season line with the L'Kings is now up to .293/.363/.463 with 47 RBI -- the second most on the club -- in 67 games, 30 of those coming as their 3-hole hitter. His six extra base hits this past week (including at least one in four straight games) ran his season total to 22.
Mack, a left-handed hitter, is hitting .317/.378/.488 in 45 plate appearances against left-handed pitching this season and he's hit to an OPS of 1.247 with runners in scoring position. After a slow start for Clinton, hitting just .194/.289/.299 after his first 20 games, Mack boasts the fifth best OPS in the Midwest League since with a .330/.391/.525 slash over his last 47 games with a league best 39 RBI in that time. To illustrate what that's meant to Clinton, he is the only LumberKings player to rank in the Top-50 in the MWL in OPS over that span. Mack is also a solid defender in the outfield corners, with an arm that is among the best on the club for Clinton. He doesn't have skills that blow you away, but keep an eye on Mack as he continues to contribute, show more pop and more consistency.
Emilio Pagan - RHP, Clinton LumberKings: 0-0, 2 SV, 3 G, 6 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO, .056 oAVG
Completing the rare "Three Up" sweep from what has been probably Seattle's worst full season affiliate this year, but definitely the hottest over the last 10 days, The LumberKings' closer Pagan deserves some accolades. The right-hander had a few outings that made it look like he experienced a rough patch in May and June, but he's rebounded nicely since, allowing just 10 baserunners and three runs in his last 13 innings. He had his longest outing of the year this last week among his three appearances, getting 10 outs while facing 11 hitters, going 3 1/3 in Clinton's 9-0 loss last Monday.
The 23-year-old Pagan leads all M's minor leaguers with 13 saves on the season after collecting 12 in his first pro season with Pulaski in 2013. The right-hander has a nice three pitch mix with a fastball up to 93, a good slider with late tilt and a change that keeps hitters honest. The offspeed offerings have been effective enough that lefties have managed just a .230/.284/.295 with only three extra base hits through 68 plate appearances so far in 2014 off of Pagan. Emilio is a solid athlete that was a two-way player and one of the best hitters on his team in college but he's allowed just 71 baserunners through 70 2/3 innings so far as a pro, so pitching is clearly the right path for him.
Luiz Gohara - LHP, Everett AquaSox: 0-1, 45.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP, 1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 0 SO, .571 oAVG
Gohara's struggles continued for Everett as the big Brazilian lefty was lit up on his 18th birthday, failing to make it past the 1st inning for the second straight outing. He is said to have come into the season a little out of shape and the results after being moved up from the AZL speak to him not being quite right. Still listed at 210 pounds, as you can see from the photo above from this week's start with the throwback Everett Giants' uniforms, Gohara doesn't look anywhere close to that. He's now hit four batters, allowed give home runs, walked 15 and thrown six wild pitches in his 18 1/3 Northwest League innings. There has been only one good start -- six innings of one run ball, allowing four hits and walking just one -- back on July 20th since being moved up.
The left-hander is very young and has a very electric mix on the mound, working in the low-90s with ease and flashing plus at times with the change and curve, but he hasn't had any command or consistency which is the key to success in pro ball. There were concerns about the lack of polished baseball background on Gohara and the weight issue lends more, well, weight, to that. While he's gone more than four innings just twice in six starts, though, there is still the potential in him to turn into a dominant force on the mound with some fine tuning.
Wilton Martinez - OF, Everett AquaSox: .048/.231/.143 (1-21), 3B, 2 RBI, 5 BB, 6 SO
Martinez generated a ton of buzz following 2012's Instructional Ball season and 2013 spring training, and he followed that up by showing some of the best power in the Appalachian League last year for Pulaski, but the entire 2014 campaign so far has been a struggle for the tall Dominican. He continues to strike out at a high rate but even more troubling is that he isn't doing any damage with that power when he does put the ball in play. Martinez has gone hitless in 20 of 35 games played so far for Everett and after leading the Appy with 12 homers a year ago, he's hit just two for Everett so far, none in his last 22 games.
The move to Everett was a logical one for Martinez, 20, but his OPS has been over .600 just once all year (June 22nd) and the struggles have been there from the first day. The raw power is among the best in the organization and he is actually walking at a good rate so far this season (9.9%), but his ground ball percentage is way up (44.3%) and his outfield fly ball rate is way down (24.7%). Until he can put the ball in play with some authority, the improvement in contact and walk rates hold little value.
Tyler Pike - LHP, Jackson Generals: 0-1, 23.62 ERA, 3.38 WHIP, 2 2/3 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 4 SO, .500 oAVG
Pike got a promotion to Jackson near the end of June despite a 5.72 ERA in 14 starts for High Desert. But leaving the unforgiving Desert conditions has not helped the highly rated left-hander as he's allowed 54 baserunners in 29 innings for Jackson, 10 in his lone start this week, when he got jut eight outs. He breezed through the first two innings last Wednesday allowing just one single, but then allowed nine straight batters to reach to start the third. Pike has walked 83 and hit 12 batters in 90 1/3 innings so far this season, and as that may lead you to guess, command has been his big issue this year. After walking 4.6 per nine a year ago, he's at 6.8 in 2014 -- the fourth worst figure of the 584 qualified minor league pitchers at all levels.
With no command, it sounds like the mound presence and confidence -- long a strong part of Pike's profile -- is seriously lacking in Jackson for the left-hander. He's been struggling with his breaking ball(s) for more than a year now, so not being able to command his fastball-changeup combo has led to some very damaging innings. Opposing hitters have tee'd off at a .387/.523/.548 rate against Tyler with Runners in Scoring Position in the Southern League, highlighting his inability to work out of the trouble that he's creating for himself.
That does it for our look at the best and worst in Seattle's system this past week. 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.