In 2016, SeattleClubhouse will once again be bringing you a fresh report 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 whose performance most deserve it.
The rebuilding in Seattle under the new front office has a clear focus on player development in the minor leagues, and while the talent in the system isn't where it has been in the past, the farm remains a very important piece of the puzzle for the Mariners, and the full-season affiliates have jumped out to a fast start. There is still quite a bit to be learned on some of the fast-rising prospects in the organization, and hopefully our weekly Three Up, Three Down installments help with that learning for our readers, covering players in their age-26 or younger season who have not exhausted their MLB rookie status.
This week's look gives you the best and worst on the field from the second week of game action from the M's minor leaguers. Here we go with installment number two -- Three Up, Three Down.
Tyler O'Neill – OF, Jackson Generals: .320/.419/.720 (8-for-25), 1 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 5 BB, 8 SO
O'Neill has jumped out to a fast start for Jackson so far in 2016, leading the Generals in hitting and ranking second in the M's organization in homers. But perhaps most importantly, he's now drawn eight walks in 70 plate appearances (11.4% BB rate) after drawing just 29 to set a new career high in 449 plate appearances (6.5% BB rate) in 2015.
His ability to hit for power is going to get him to the big leagues, but his ability to hit for average and to better control the strike zone is what will determine how long he'll stay. The strikeouts are still there (18), and they always will be, but Tyler needs to be more than a one-trick pony (homers) to last. He's on his way to becoming more complete of a hitter now.
Dalton Kelly – 1B, Clinton LumberKings: .433/.438/.567 (13-for-30), 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 SO, 1-2 SB
Kelly was profiled in our Just Outside the Top-50 for what he's always been; a defense-first, disciplined hitter that gets the bat on the ball. All he's done so far in 2016, however, is hit. He picked up an organization-best 13 knocks last week, and he is tied for third in the system overall in hits this year with 24. 20 of his hits are singles, and Kelly doesn't project as a prototypical power-hitting first baseman, but he is showing that he can hit.
Those 24 hits come with a .375/.446/.453 slash, and the left-handed hitter has struck out just nine times in 74 trips to the plate so far (12.2%). Kelly has also already picked up as many hits against lefties -- six -- in 13 at bats against them as he had in 31 tries in 2015.
Tyler Herb – RHP, Bakersfield Blaze: 2 G, 2-0, 1.42 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 12 2/3 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 13 SO, .140 oAVG
Herb, Seattle's 29th rounder in the 2014 Draft out of Coastal Carolina, had been hit hard in his first two seasons in the system -- the first of those seasons as a reliever and the second as a starter. Hit hard to the tune of 11.5 hits-per-nine and a 1.62 WHIP to be exact. But So far in 2016, he's arguably been the organization's second best starting pitcher, striking out an uncharacteristic 19 in his first two starts (11 innings), and then turning in a 7-inning, 1-hit gem in his latest start Sunday.
Herb gave a nice CtheZ-esque response in his quote to MiLB.com in this piece, and the basic fact that things seem to be clicking for him this season is a nice feather in the cap early in the year for the M's new player development system and new approach.
Rayder Ascanio – SS, Clinton LumberKings: .208/.240/.208 (5-for-24), 1 BB, 7 SO, 1-2 SB
Ascanio started this year down a level from where he was in 2015, although that assignment was out of necessity and defensive ability more than overall readiness. Although the competition has been "easier", the results have remained uninspiring. The thinly-built switch-hitter has yet to collect an extra base hit, and while there was a 3-hit game in there last week, the strikeouts in particular (17 in 58 PA so far) are troubling for a bat that should be geared towards contact.
Ascanio made his first error of the season at shortstop this past week, and his reliability at the position early has been a strong point for Clinton. But his defense alone won't be enough for the 20 year old to move up as a starter if the contact issues persist.
Dan Paolini – 1B/3B, Jackson Generals: .095/.095/.143 (2-for-21), 1 2B, 1 RBI, 0 BB, 4 SO
Paolini saw Tacoma at the end of 2015, but this season saw him head back to Jackson for the fourth straight year once he got healthy. He was 7-for-14 in his first four games of the year, but ended the week in an 0-for-17 skid that also saw him have a tough time at third base, making two errors that led to two unearned runs for Edwin Diaz in a loss on Saturday in his second career start at the position.
The right-handed hitting 26 year old has some pop and patience, and if he can hack it at third base it would definitely help his profile, but he doesn't have the arm, range, or hands that you typically find in a successful prospect there.
Cody Martin – RHP, Tacoma Rainiers: 2 G, 1-1, 15.26 ERA, 2.74 WHIP, 7 2/3 IP, 13 H, 13 R, 13 ER, 8 BB, 6 SO, .371 oAVG
Martin didn't have a single Triple-A start last year in which he surrendered more than three runs and more than three walks, but he did that in both of his outings this past week. In All, the righty allowed 24 of the 47 batters he faced to reach base in his 7 2/3 innings, hitting three batters, walking eight and really taking it on the chin in Sunday's loss to Sacramento.
The 26 year old was very good in his first two starts of the year, he's on the 40-man roster and logged 30 2/3 (admittedly bad) big league innings last season between Atlanta and Oakland, but this past week was definitely a rough one.
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.