The rosters for the six Arizona Fall League teams were announced today, and Seattle's seven representatives that will play for the Peoria Javelinas have been identified. The club will send left-handed pitchers James Paxton, David Rollins and Paul Fry along with right-hander Tony Zych to be part of Peoria's pitching staff. They will also send right-handed hitting infielders D.J. Peterson and Tyler Smith and outfielder Tyler O'Neill.
Paxton, rehabbing from a strained tendon in the middle finger of his left hand since the end of May, will start again for Tacoma Wednesday before joining Seattle for the balance of September, but it is interesting to see the 26-year-old's name among those being sent to the AFL for the Mariners. Paxton has thrown just 62 innings this year thanks to the finger injury and threw just 87 last year thanks to injuries, so after hopefully making four or five starts for Seattle down the stretch, the club wants him to pitch in the AFL to help extend that innings total for this year.
Rollins, who Seattle selected in the Rule 5 Draft last December from Houston, pitched well in Tacoma after returning from his 80-game suspension for testing positive for Stanozolol in March, but he's been hit hard in his 15 games with the Mariners since being promoted on Independence Day. The 25 year old has allowed 44 base runners in 21 innings, surrendering 20 earned runs, a .379 opponent's average and 11 extra base hits in that time. That said, he had only thrown six innings above the Double-A level prior to this season and he has shown a good fastball and the ability to get strikeouts (19) despite his overall struggles.
Fry is among the top-10 in all of minor league baseball in K/9 for pitchers with 50 or more innings in 2015, as he's struck out 109 in 77 1/3 innings between Bakersfield and Jackson this year. The M's 17th round pick in 2013, Fry has struck out 39 of the 97 hitters he's faced at the Double-A level this season and he's walked just 21 all season. Fry hasn't allowed a home run this season and has given up just four in his 178 1/3 minor league innings to date.
Zych, who was added to the big league roster today, was the Chicago Cubs' 4th round pick in the 2011 Draft out of Louisville but after some struggles in 2014, the M's were able to pick him up in a cash deal back in April. He has a big fastball and a slider that has been better of late. He's been scored on in just one of his last 22 outings in the minors this season, striking out 34 and walking seven while giving up just a .512 OPS in that 24 2/3 inning stretch.
Peterson is currently on the disabled list for Tacoma with an achilles injury, an injury that befelled him shortly after his promotion to Triple-A. After a monster 2014 that included 31 home runs and 111 RBI and culminated in an AFL spot (that was not very good), Peterson has hit only seven home runs while hitting just .223/.287/.344 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2015.
Smith has been in Jackson all season and has quietly had a very solid year at the plate and in the field as the primary shortstop for the Generals. He has put up a .268/.363/.353 slash, ranking second in Seattle's system and eighth in the Southern League in walks with 61. He has made just one error in his last 38 games at short and has hit .289 in the second half for Jackson, typically from the No. 2 spot in the order.
O'Neill has probably been the best performer among M's prospects in 2015 as the 20 year old has mashed 30 homers while posting a very solid .264/.318/.557 slash for Bakersfield as one of the youngest players in the California League. Seattle's 3rd round pick in 2013, O'Neill is the second youngest player on an AFL roster at this point and one of just five minor leaguers (along with org mate Jabari Blash) who have reached the 30-homer plateau in 2015 so far. And O'Neill has done it in just 424 plate appearances as he missed a good chunk of time while he was picking up Gold in the Pan Am Games for Team Canada.
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