For the fifth consecutive season, SeattleClubhouse is checking in each Monday with a rundown of the best and worst performances in the minor leagues from the past week within the Seattle Mariners' organization. The goal with this weekly piece 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.
While the roster in Seattle doesn't have a lot of soft spots, the talent in the system still is a very important part of the ability for the Mariners to sustain success. And there is still quite a bit to be learned on some of the better prospects in the organization. Hopefully Three Up, Three Down helps with that learning for our readers, covering players in their age-26 or younger season who have not exhausted their MLB rookie status.
Every Monday, we look at three players on each side of the spectrum who dream of being on their way towards Seattle in 2015. Here we go with this week's installment of, Three Up, Three Down.
Edwin Diaz - RHP, Jackson Generals: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.33 WHIP, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO, .050 oAVG
Now 10 starts into his Double-A career, Diaz turned in his fifth start of allowing two runs or less this past week, blanking Mississippi and allowing just two of the 21 batters he faced to reach while striking out seven. The 21 year old, Seattle's top starting pitching prospect in the minors, now has 2015 season numbers almost exactly on par with his standout 2014 numbers between two levels, with a 3.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 7.4 H/9 allowed and 93 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings in his 17 starts on the year.
Pirates prospect Josh Bell took Diaz deep on a 93 mph fastball in the Futures Game yesterday, but Diaz has allowed just two home runs in 55 2/3 innings at Double-A this season and has allowed just 17 in his 296 2/3 pro innings overall. That is due to Diaz having very good arm side run on his plus fastball that he keeps down in the zone. But it has been the development of Diaz's secondary offerings that have allowed him to succeed with Jackson -- and that is what he'll need to continue to refine to make his way to Tacoma and eventually Seattle, where he could peak as a No. 3 starter.
Jose Leal - OF, Peoria Mariners: .429/.478/.810 (9-21), 5 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 3 SO
Leal was the M's biggest offensive international free agent signing in 2011, inking a deal for just under $2m on the same day that the club signed right-hander Victor Sanchez, who tragically lost his life this past off-season. Leal obviously hasn't skyrocketed through the system the same way that Sanchez did, but he has been showing some signs down in Arizona. This past week the 20 year old right-handed hitting outfielder cracked five doubles in five games while pushing his hitting streak to seven games. In those seven games, Leal has hit .429/.469/.621 to raise his season OPS from .617 to .872.
Leal is far from being a can't-miss prospect at this point, but now four years into his career in pro ball, he is finally showing signs of putting the tools that the club saw in him into action on the field. The plus power has produced 11 extra base hits in 77 plate appearances already, and the strikeouts -- although still high -- are starting to came back down into manageable range. It would be nice to see Leal pushed up to a higher level (probably Everett) before the year is out, but 2016 looks like it could be a big year for him to take a step forward.
Corey Simpson - OF, Everett AquaSox: .364/.360/.636 (8-22), 2 HR, 8 RBI, 2 BB, 8 SO
Simpson, repeating in Everett after struggling to a drastic degree to open 2014 with Clinton, is taking care of Northwest League pitching like you think a "veteran" of the league should so far. He cracked two more home runs this week for the Frogs, giving him a league leading five on the year and 14 in 75 games there since last year. Simpson also drew two walks, which is a good sign although still an obvious weakness in his game at the plate.
Simpson does still have trouble recognizing breaking pitches and making contact, as his 29 strikeouts show, but the big power has already turned out 10 extra base hits, and it seems to be playing in games very well. The converted catcher still doesn't looks comfortable or quick in the outfield, but his strong arm helps make up for some of his shortcomings with range and routes at times. It would be nice to see Simpson get another crack at the Midwest League, but the M's may want him to taste a full year of success before turning him loose there again.
Forrest Snow - RHP, Tacoma Rainiers: 0-2, 9.31 ERA, 2.17 WHIP, 9 2/3 IP, 15 H, 10 ER, 1 HR, 6 BB, 9 SO, .357 oAVG
Snow, who was named a Triple-A All-Star and who has pitched quite well for Tacoma for much of the season, got hit around pretty hard this past week, allowing 21 base runners in 9 2/3 innings in his two starts. Forrest also gave up his 13th home run of the season, tied for the fifth most in the league this season and something that has been a problem for him for more than just this year. Still, these two starts were the first two appearances out of 20 this season where the right-hander has allowed more than three runs. In fact, he's allowed zero or one earned run in 15 of his 20 games and nine of his 13 starts.
Even with the rough week, Snow still has an ERA of 3.03 and WHIP of 1.21 in 86 innings in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League this season. That ERA is well below the 4.36 league mark, and the 9th best among PCL starters with 10+ starts on the year. Snow has now thrown more than half of his pro innings -- 278 out of 550 2/3 -- at the Triple-A level, and it would appear that the 26 year old is ready for some kind of role in the major leagues if a spot were to open up.
Hersin Martinez - OF, Peoria Mariners: .190/.190/.381 (4-21), 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0 BB, 13 SO
Signed a year after Leal for about 60% as much money, Martinez is another big, powerful Latin product that hasn't really been able to get untracked as a pro so far. He punched out 13 times in 21 trips this past week and has struck out 28 times in 66 plate appearances (42.4%) on the season, with two or more Ks in 10 of his 17 games on the year -- his second in the AZL. And even though he spent two years playing in the Dominican Summer League, Martinez's career strikeout rate is 34.8%. He did hit his first home run of the season, though, and the 6-foot-5 right-handed hitting outfielder has big time power in his bat if he can make enough contact to get to it.
The contact issues are an issue for more of the Latin signees than not, and that ends up being the undoing for a huge number of them in their careers. But Martinez put up solid numbers in the AZL a year ago, hitting .248/.339/.359 as a 19 year old. If he can make some adjustments and improvements in the plate discipline game and have his power play more as he matures, he could turn himself into one of the prospects that sticks.
Guillermo Pimentel - OF, Bakersfield Blaze: .077/.111/.115 (2-26), 1 2B, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 11 SO
Keeping with the theme, Pimentel is a big power prospect from the international ranks that Seattle gave big money to as well. Unlike Leal and Martinez, he's had time to make the necessary adjustments as he's moved up the organizational ladder. But to this point, the results still aren't there. The 22 year old in his sixth season in the system was struck out in 11 of his 26 plate appearances this past week and has 67 strikeouts in 213 plate appearances (31.5%) on the year in the California League. The left-handed hitting outfielder has chipped in with 15 extra base hits, but he's again struggling to make meaningful contact and tap into his considerable power.
Pimentel missed most of 2014, but his 2011 and 2013 seasons showed enough potential with the bat that he remained on the prospect radar heading into this year. He doesn't have a huge, sell-out-for-power swing, but since all of his value as a player comes at the plate, until Guillermo can figure out how to make contact more, he will not succeed or move up the ladder in Seattle's system.
That does it for this week's installment of the highlights and lowlights in on-field performances in Seattle's system. Check back in with us as each week as we incorporate "Three Up, Three Down" into our regular reports. And make sure to stick with SeattleClubhouse throughout the entire calendar year for reports from all of the Mariners' affiliates and prospects.
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.